Hungary will thwart EU sanctions against Russia’s state nuclear corporation, reports say

A 2014 protest at the Paks-2 nuclear power plant in Hungary.
A 2014 protest at the Paks-2 nuclear power plant in Hungary.
Courtesy of Ecodefense

Publish date: January 27, 2023

Hungary will veto any European Union sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday, according to newswires.

Hungary will veto any European Union sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday, according to newswires.

Ukraine has called on the 27-nation EU to include Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom in sanctions but Hungary, which has a Russian-built nuclear plant it plans to expand with Rosatom, has blocked that.

Orban reiterated in the radio interview that sanctions on nuclear energy “must obviously be vetoed,” according to Reuters.

“We will not allow the plan to include nuclear energy into the sanctions be implemented,” the Hungarian premier said. “This is out of the question.”

EU-member Hungary has repeatedly criticized EU sanctions on Russia over its invasion of neighboring Ukraine, saying they failed to weaken Russia meaningfully, while they risk destroying the European economy.

The West has not imposed sanctions on Rosatom since the invasion began, despite the corporation’s role in the takeover of the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex in southeastern Ukraine, Europe’s biggest such plant.

Hungary’s Paks nuclear power station has four Soviet-built VVER-440 reactors with a combined capacity of about 2,000 megawatts, which reached full operational capacity in 1987. The plant generates about half Hungary’s power and gets its nuclear fuel from Russia.

Under a deal signed in 2014 with Russia, Hungary aims to expand the Paks plant with two Russian-made VVER-1200 reactors with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts each.

Poland and Lithuania advanced the notion of sanctioning Rosatom earlier this month, proposing that that Rosatom or its leadership be blacklisted in the EU as a first step. Ukraine itself has vociferously demanded Rosatom be sanctioned.

According to Rosatom itself, the war in Ukraine has done little to dampen its profits.

Speaking in December, Rosatom CEO Aleksey Likhachev told Izvestiya newspaper that the corporation’s 2022 exports grew by 15 percent.

“[Exports will grow] by about 15%. But one must understand that this is far from the limit,” Izvestia quoted Likhachev as saying in remarks published on December 26.

Likhachev ascribed the growth to, among others, contracts already being implemented, supplies of fuel, enriched uranium products, as well as conversion services,. It also includes the construction of 23 nuclear power units at projects in a dozen countries, he added.

Even in conditions of war and sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, “our portfolio of foreign orders for 10 years ahead is stable at the level of $200 billion,” Likhachev said. “This year we will overcome a psychologically important barrier in the supply of our products abroad in the amount of $10 billion.”

Including Hungary’s, there are currently 18 Russian or Soviet designed nuclear power plants operating in the EU. The majority of these plants depend on Rosatom for fuel deliveries, as well as storage of that fuel when it has been used. For it’s part, the United States relies on Rosatom for about one-quarter of its enriched uranium supplies.

Overall, Rosatom controls about 30 percent of the global market for uranium enrichment and 17 percent of the market for reactor fuel, and out of the approximately 450 nuclear power plants around the world, about 20 percent of them are Russian- or Soviet-designed.



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