Hungary dismisses concern over Russian backing for nuclear project

By bne IntelliNews January 22, 2016

Hungary has no concern that financial issues could delay the Russian-backed expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant, the official in charge of the project claimed on January 22.

Attila Aszodi’s remarks came in the wake of a statement by Russia's Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak that Moscow may be forced to suspend loans to foreign countries. Already facing recession, the Russian budget has been hit by a sharp fall in oil prices, which in turn is pushing the ruble to record lows. There is now concern that Moscow's large reserves risk running out.

Suggestions that Paks could fall victim to those problems only rose when it was announced that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is scheduled to travel to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 17. The pair will discuss the project amid claims enthusiasm for the deal is also cooling in Hungary. Over the past few months, the European Commission launched several investigations into the project. Brussels says it suspects it does not comply with EU competition and state aid rules.

However, Aszodi sought to downplay all those issues. The official said he is in daily contact with Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom, which will carry out the project, according to Portfolio.hu. There are no indications the company wants to withdraw or that there will not be the funds from Russia to build the two new reactors.

“We have never seen any indication from the Russian party that it would have doubts about the project, therefore I would not expect it to be reluctant or overly strung-out financially to carry out the project,” Aszodi told reporters.

Budapest tore up an international tender in January 2014 to hand Russia the €12.5bn contract to expand Hungary's only nuclear power plant. In return, Moscow agreed to lend Hungary €10bn in funding. The pair signed contracts on the design, construction and maintenance of the two new 1,200 megawatt reactors in late 2014.

 

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