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Nuclear energy in Hungary

Atomová energie
Nuclear energy in Hungary

  • Hungary has four nuclear reactors generating more than one-third of its electricity.
  • Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1982.
  • The Hungarian Parliament has expressed overwhelming support for building two new power reactors.

In 2010, total electricity generation in Hungary was 37.4 billion kWh (gross), of which nuclear accounted for 15.8 billion kWh (42%)a. Gas accounted for 11.6 billion kWh (31%) and coal 6.3 billion kWh (17%). About 5.2 billion kWh (net) was imported, mainly from Slovakia. Electricity consumption in Hungary is growing modestly and in 2009 was 3300 kWh per capita. In 2011 Paks provided 14.7 billion kWh net. The government plans to increase the nuclear proportion of electricity to about 60%.

Nuclear generation costs are well below those from other sources in Hungary. In 2007, the price of a kilowatt-hour of electricity from Paks was HUF 9.43 (3.58 Euro cents/kWh).

Operating Hungarian power reactors

Reactor Model Net MWe First power Scheduled close
Paks 1 VVER-440/V-213 470 1982 2012
Paks 2 VVER-440/V-213 470 1984 2014
Paks 3 VVER-440/V-213 470 1986 2016
Paks 4 VVER-440/V-213 470 1987 2017
Total (4) 1880 MWe (2000 MWe nominal gross)

Nuclear industry development

Hungary's National Atomic Energy Committee (OAB) was set up in 1956 and the country's first research reactor went critical in 1959. An interstate treaty between Hungary and Soviet Union to build a nuclear power plant was signed in 1966 and, in 1967, the Paks site 100 km south of Budapest was chosen. An 880 MWe nuclear plant was ordered in 1971, and construction of the first two units by Atomenergoexport started in 1974, with the second two in 1979. The four VVER-440 reactors (model V-213) started up between 1982 and 1987.

The Paks plant is owned and operated by Paks Nuclear Power Plant Ltd, which is a subsidiary company of state-owned Hungarian Power Companies Ltd (Magyar Villamos Művek, MVM).

Operating lifetime extension

The design lifetime of the reactors is 30 years, so the four units at Paks would reach the end of their service lifetimes between 2012 and 2017. A feasibility study on extending the operational lifetimes of the units by 20 years carried out in 2000 (and updated in 2005) found no technical or safety objection to a 50-year service life. In November 2005, the Hungarian Parliament overwhelmingly supported a 20-year life extension project for Paks. The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) has approved the lifetime extension program (submitted in November 2008) and the application for the extension of the operating licence of the first unit is due to be submitted to the HAEA before the end of 2011.

Capacity increase

Though originally 440 MWe gross, the units were upgraded in the 1990s to 470 MWe. An 8% uprate was then carried out between 2002 and 2009 to give 500-510 MWe gross, so that each now has a net capacity of about 470 MWe1. A contract signed in May 2007 with Atomstroyexport relates to this work2, in particular: new design fuel assemblies, modernisation of the in-core monitoring system, the reconstruction of the primary pressure control system, and the modification of the turbine and the turbine control system.

New build

In the 1980s, the government planned to construct two VVER-1000 units as Paks 5 & 6 (each 950 MWe). Preparations were almost completed when the project was cancelled in 1989 due to decreased power demand.

In 1996-97, Paks Nuclear Power Plant proposed building a further one or two units of 600-700 MWe capacity - either the Westinghouse AP600 design, the AECL Candu-6, or the Atomstroyexport/Siemens VVER-640. This was later rejected by MVM because it did not fit government policy at that time and the preliminary environmental impact study was not completed.

With the need to build about 6000 MWe of new generating capacity by 2030, new nuclear plant is again under consideration, and two 1000 MWe units for the Paks site are proposed. In March 2009, the Hungarian Parliament (330 for; 6 against; 10 abstentions) gave preliminary approval to this, though some foreign investment would be needed. Paks expects to issue an invitation to tender early in 2012, with a decision in 2013 and is considering five reactor types: Areva's EPR; the Areva-Mitsubishi Atmea1; Atomstroyexport's VVER-1200; the Westinghouse AP10003and Korea's APR-1400. The first unit is expected to begin operation sometime after 2020, the second after 2025. The tender will be issued by Paksi Fejlesztesi, a project company initially to be owned 100% by MVM, but which could involve a strategic investor at a later stage.

Proposed Hungarian power reactors

Reactor Model MWe gross First power
Paks 5 ? 1250-1700 after 2020
Paks 6 ? 1250-1700 after 2025
Total (2) 2500-3400 MWe

Consideration of future options for Hungary involves the so-called Visegrad 4 group countries - Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which are cooperating closely on nuclear power issues, including in research into future reactor designs and infrastructure development.

Fuel cycle

Hungary has some uranium resources around the Mecsek deposit in the south of the country, but no present production. The Mecsek underground mine near Pécs operated from 1958 to 1997. Initially ore was shipped to Estonia for milling, but from 1963 it was milled on site and the concentrate was exported to the Soviet Union. A total of about 21,000 tU was produced at an average recovery of 50-60%. Since 1997, the mine has been decommissioned and remediated at considerable expense (about EUR110 million).

In August 2008, the Australian company Wildhorse Energy Ltd joined with state-owned Mecsekérc to assess the feasibility of restarting uranium mining at Mecsek Hills. This led to an agreement with Mecsekérc and Mecsek-Öko signed in October 2009 which covered all of the uranium resources in the Mecsek region over some 72 sq kmb. A further joint venture agreement with both government-owned groups was signed early in 2012, bringing Mecsek-Öko's MML-E licence (the former uranium mine area) together with Wildhorse's Pecs licence to give combined JORC-compliant inferred resource of 30,000 tU at 0.061%U. The company expects to increase this substantially. Wildhorse is also developing an underground coal gasification project nearby at Mecsek Hills, in conjunction with uranium plans.

All fuel supply is contracted from Tvel in Russia.

2003 Fuel damage incident:

A program to chemically clean partially used fuel was curtailed following an accident, which was rated Level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)c. In 2001, unit 2 at Paks was the first ever reactor to be reloaded with fuel that had been chemically cleaned4; however, in April 2003, at the same unit, 30 fuel assemblies were badly damaged inside a cleaning tank due to insufficient cooling5. The assemblies overheated in the cleaning tank which was submerged in the transfer pond so that most became deformed with burst cladding, releasing a lot of radioactivity into the water, with noble gases into the plant area. Five batches of fuel had been cleaned before the incident, to remove magnetite corrosion products from the steam generators, which impeded coolant flow in the core. Radioactive gases were emitted through the stack for several days, and the reactors was out of service for 18 months.

Radioactive waste management

Although preparations are being made for direct disposal of used fuel without reprocessing, there is no policy decision on reprocessing and it appears unlikely that used nuclear fuel will be reprocessed. In the past, some used fuel has been returned to Russia for reprocessing, but without repatriation of separated fissile materials.

Since 1998, a levy on nuclear power production is paid into the Central Nuclear Financial Fund to pay for storage and disposal of radioactive wastes, including used fuel, and decommissioning.

The state-owned body responsible for all waste management, waste disposal and decommissioning is the Public Limited Company for Radioactive Waste Management (Radioaktív Hulladékokat Kezelő Kft., RHK Kft), formerly the Public Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (PURAM)d.

Under 1995 policy, used fuel is stored in pools at Paks for five years then transferred to an interim (50-year) dry storage facility there.

For low- and intermediate-level wastes, the Püspökszilágy Radioactive Waste Treatment and Disposal Facility (RWTDF) began operation in 1977e. The RWTDF also accepted wastes from Paks until 1996 and the 5040 m3 capacity facility became full in 2005.

Following the decision to construct a new repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes from Paksf, PURAM carried out geological investigations over a decade, and finally focused on a repository site in the south of the country, about 30 km from Pécs. In mid-2005, the residents of Bátaapáti voted to approve construction of a repository for low- and intermediate-level wastes there, and this was approved by Parliament. In December 2006, the government declared the Bátaapáti site an "investment of extraordinary significance", paving the way for accelerated licensing. The EUR150 million surface facilities of the National Radioactive Waste Repository were opened in October 2008, and construction of underground vaults for intermediate-level wastes is expected to be completed in 2011, allowing operation from 2012.6

Paks waste that was sent to RWTDF at Püspökszilágy will eventually be moved to Bátaapáti National Radioactive Waste Repository for final disposal, so that waste disposed at RWTDF will only derive from institutional (i.e. non-power) sources.

For high-level wastes, a claystone formation near Buda in the southwest Mecsek Mountains is being investigated, and a preliminary safety analysis has been made for a deep geological repository thereg. It is expected to begin operation after 2060.

Research & development

The Atomic Energy Research Institute (KFK AEKI) operates the Budapest research reactor of 10 MW, which started up in 1959 and was rebuilt in 1991. In 2009, it was converted to operate on low-enriched uranium. The Technical University of Budapest (BUTE) operates a training reactor of 100 kW. A zero-power critical assembly has been decommissioned.

Regulation and safety

Under the amended Atomic Energy Act 1996, the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) is responsible for safety policy, safeguards arrangements, licensing, safety, wastes and regulation. The Nuclear Safety Directorate of the HAEA is responsible for the safety of nuclear installations.

Handling of radioactive materials and wastes, together with radiation protection generally, is regulated by the Minster of Health. However, ensuring low levels of release and exposure are among HAEA's responsibilities.

The Hungarian Energy Office advises on tariffs for both grid network and the public service, and these are set by the Minister for Economy & Transport.


Hungary is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1969 as a non-nuclear weapons state. It is member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and since May 2004, of Euratom. The Additional Protocol in relation to its safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency came into force in 2000.

ZDROJ: http://www.world-nuclear.org

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