BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Russian company Rosatom’s 12.5 billion euro (11.25 billion pounds) project to build two nuclear reactors in Hungary has been delayed by at least a year, Hungarian authorities said.
Hungarian minister Janos Suli told a conference on Thursday that the Paks nuclear project would be delayed by 22 months because of European Union regulatory hurdles but the government was working to shorten the delay.
A government official on Friday confirmed his comments, which were reported on state news agency MTI.
Suli said the two Russian VVER 1200 reactors could come online in 2026 and 2027 respectively, a year later than outlined in a 2015 government presentation.
He also said that Rosatom still plans to start work on the site’s auxiliary buildings in early 2018 and that, once permits are secured, construction of the reactors could start in 2020.
Suli said the application for the construction permit - originally scheduled for end-2017 - will be submitted mid-2018 and that approval could take up to 15 months.
Rosatom confirmed the delay but said it was not at fault.
“An examination process by the European Commission ... led to a forced revision of the schedule,” Rosatom said in an emailed statement, adding that first work on the site would start as soon as in January 2018.
Greenpeace anti-nuclear activist Andras Perger said that EU regulatory controls should have been anticipated and were not responsible for Rosatom’s delay in submitting the request for a construction permit.
“If the Russians are not responsible for the delay then they will not pay any penalties,” Perger said.
He added that Rosatom has so many projects at home and abroad that it struggles to manage them all.
An industry executive said that as Rosatom is speeding up a project to build Turkey’s first nuclear plant, it may let the timing of others slide.
Rosatom said last month that it aims to start work on its Turkish Akkuyu project by the end of March.
Industry sources say that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is eager for construction to start on the plant, whereas in Hungary existing plants can operate for many more years.
The Paks site already has four Russian-built reactors that account for about a third of Hungary’s power consumption and will be retired between 2023 and 2037.
Finnish-Russian group Fennovoima said last month that the licence to build a Rosatom reactor in Hanhikivi, Finland was likely to take a year longer than expected as design work by supplier and co-owner Rosatom had been slower than expected.
The financial difficulties of rivals Westinghouse (6501.T) and Areva (EDF.PA) have created opportunities for Rosatom, but China’s CGN and South Korea’s Kepco (015760.KS) are also competing for business.
Reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by David Goodman and Susan Fenton