BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary's parliament on Thursday authorized a deal with Russia to build two reactors at the country's only nuclear power plant in the southern city of Paks.
Russia will loan Hungary up to 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion) — around 80 percent of the construction costs — and 40 percent of the job will be carried out by Hungarian suppliers and subcontractors.
The deal was approved 256-29 Thursday by lawmakers from the governing Fidesz party and the far-right Jobbik opposition party. Most left-wing lawmakers voted against it. The government says the expansion of the Paks plant, which provides some 40 percent of the country's electricity supply, will lessen Hungary's energy dependence on foreign sources and result in lower electricity prices. It will also increase Russia's long-term influence on energy matters, however, as Hungary already gets most of its natural gas and oil from Russia.
"Without the renovation of Paks, cheap, safe and clean energy can't be produced in Hungary," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state radio after the deal was signed in Moscow. "Without the Paks nuclear power plant, Hungary can have only a poor, rundown and uncompetitive economy."
Critics blasted the fact that Russia has pledged to remove and repatriate nuclear waste generated by the plant but can send it back to Hungary after 20 years, as well as a clause that gives Russia a say in the price of electricity generated by the plant.
Four lawmakers from the green Politics Can Be Different party were expelled from parliament after they interrupted the vote with loud sirens and posters. Environmental groups say the cost of deal will prevent Hungary from being able to invest in renewable energy sources.
"(This) gives a green light for the next 60-70 years to an outdated, expensive and inflexible source of energy that will constantly endanger the country," Greenpeace said. Paks currently has four Soviet-built reactors that began operation in the 1980s and together generate 2 gigawatts of electricity. Their 30-year lifetimes are expected to be extended by 20 years.
The new reactors, which are to be completed in 2023, will each generate 1.2 gigawatts.