Hungary to Push on With Russian Nuclear Deal Chided by EU

Hungary will proceed with the expansion of its Paks nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, rejecting European Commission accusations that his cabinet violated public procurement rules when it awarded the contract to Russia’s Rosatom.

Hungary assigned the construction of two new reactors and the refurbishment of two others at the Paks station without a transparent procedure, the European Union’s executive arm said in a statement Thursday, giving Hungarian authorities two months to respond. While the government pledged to cooperate with the EU, ministers insisted the expansion was vital for the country’s electricity needs and defended the project.

“We will go ahead,” Orban said in an interview on MR1-Kossuth radio on Friday. “The EU is protecting the interest of western European companies that wanted to participate in the project as we are talking about a huge amount, more than $10 billion.”

Recent projects for construction of nuclear power plants in Europe have been initiated without tenders, Orban said, citing Finland as an example. In Finland, it’s up to the private power company to make a call for competitive bids. Rosatom won a contract for the Pyhajoki nuclear station after it bought E.ON’s stake in Fennovoima Oy. Other companies competing to supply a reactor included Toshiba Corp. and Areva SA.

Orban agreed on the deal with Russia at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2014, without inviting competitive bids for the biggest Hungarian public contract in a generation. The government later classified information relating to the deal for 30 years.

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