Hungary is building two new nuclear reactors, and it’s looking to Russia for assistance. The EU was unhappy, however, with the way the contract was drawn up with Russia’s nuclear firm, Rosatom, and rejected the deal earlier this month over concerns that Budapest would be sourcing its nuclear fuel solely from Russia. Hungary went back to the drawing board, and now believes it has in place a fuel agreement that will be more to Brussels’s liking. The FT reports:
According to officials close to the talks, Hungary agreed to make important concessions to revive the Paks contract. Russia will now supply fuel to Paks for 10 years before the supply contracts are opened up to international competition, allowing companies such as the Japanese-US group Westinghouse to bid in the future.
EU officials also said that they had insisted that alternative fuel suppliers should be able to test the suitability of their fuel for Paks, from the outset of the project.
It looks like the fuel supply issue is on a path to resolution, but that wasn’t the only aspect of this Hungarian-Russian partnership worrying Brussels. Contracts to construct and operate the plant apparently were awarded to Rosatom without a competitive bidding process, and that’s especially troubling for the EU after the way Hungary has cozied up to Russia in recent months.
This saga is far from over, and it’s worth following for what it can tell us about where Europe is headed. Brussels threw down the gauntlet, and it seems as if Hungary is willing to make enough concessions to get the ball rolling again. But the EU’s central concern—the bloc’s heavy reliance on Russia to meet its energy needs—still stands.