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The government has proposed a ruling to take the supervision of Hungary’s atomic energy production out of the public’s control, giving the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (AOH) much more independence from future governments, reports 444. Furthermore, Fidesz-KDNP has also proposed to extend the deadline of repaying the 3,500 billion forint (EUR 10 billion) loan for the Paks 2 Nuclear Power Plant to Russia, in order to allow the loan repayment to occur once the plant is operational.

The ruling, proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, would give Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the ability to appoint the AOH president for a term of at least nine years. Consecutive prime ministers would not be able to interfere with this appointment.

The issue of the Paks upgrade, the Russian loan, and, to a larger extent, the use of nuclear energy in Hungary, are topics which the opposition has promised to revise if it wins the next election.

Gov't Outsources State Assets and Unis to 'Raise Competitiveness,' Opposition Believes It's Robbery
Gov't Outsources State Assets and Unis to 'Raise Competitiveness,' Opposition Believes It's Robbery

The government's official reasoning is to raise competitiveness and efficiency.Continue reading

The last director general of the organization, Gyula Fichtinger, resigned two weeks ago. He did not provide a reason for his resignation.

If the National Assembly, which is currently controlled by a Fidesz-KDNP majority, votes in support of the ruling, the AOH will be practically free of government control by 2022.

Considering that the ruling is accepted, since it very likely will be, the laws on atomic energy will remove the clause stating that “it is the government’s responsibility to safely ensure the management and supervision of the operation of atomic energy.”

No Atomic Energy Experience Required for Presidency

Independent MP Bernadett Szél finds it worrying that that the leader of the institution will have a nine year term, on top of the fact that, according to the proposal, they will not need to be well-versed in the field of Hungary’s atomic energy.

LMP Calls for Cancelling Paks Nuclear Power Station Expansion Contract
LMP Calls for Cancelling Paks Nuclear Power Station Expansion Contract

Opposition LMP has submitted a bill to parliament with the aim of cancelling the contract for expanding Hungary’s sole nuclear power station in Paks, the party’s group leader said on Thursday. “Nuclear energy is neither cheap nor safe,” László Lóránt Keresztes said in Pécs, in southern Hungary, on the tenth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear […]Continue reading

As the proposal reads, to be eligible for the position, the appointed individual will either need at least three years of experience related to the field of using nuclear energy, and managerial experience in public administration.

Why Is the Government Giving up Public Assets?

This decision appears to be a part of a recent chain reaction of government rulings to move public institutions, such as tobacco trade and 70 percent of public universities, out of the government’s jurisdiction. The newly created Supervisory Authority for Regulated Activities will oversee tobacco trade, the lottery market, the contact list of liquidators, concession tasks, and even enforcement proceedings.

Opposition Turns to Constitutional Court over Ruling Parties Outsourcing Public Assets and Unis
Opposition Turns to Constitutional Court over Ruling Parties Outsourcing Public Assets and Unis

They called it "unacceptable that the Orbán government, fearing an election defeat in 2022, is handing public funds to its strawmen."Continue reading

It also coincides with decisions to move castles, harbors, parks, clinics, and lands formerly owned by the public into the hands of foundations created by the government.

The release of multiple public institutions valuable to the government one year before an election might raise a few eyebrows. Many would argue that the reasoning for a public body, with a majority in the National Assembly, to suddenly give up so many of its assets is not only questionable, but perhaps even undemocratic.

Regardless of speculation, it is clear that 2022 will be the year of small government.

PMO Head Addresses AOH Concerns

In the government’s press conference on Thursday, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás addressed concerns over the new ruling. It was the European Union’s intention, Gulyás said, that the atomic energy bureau operate independently from the government.

Thus this ruling coincides with the EU’s interests, and ensures, according to the minister, that it is driven by a non-partisan individual. Presidency of AOH will be held by a specialized leader, who “stands above all suspicion.”

In the same press conference, Gulyás emphasized the importance of the Paks 2 Nuclear Power Plant, since without it, the price of energy would increase drastically. Gulyás also said that the goals set out by the Paris Climate Accords are only achievable with atomic energy, as this is the most environmentally friendly source.

Fact

According to EDF Energy, the most popular renewable energy sources are solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biomass. Separate studies published by the International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy and Technology and Economics of Smart Grids and Sustainable Energy both found that wind energy is the most reliable type of renewable energy.

Paks 2 Plan to Be Altered, Deadline Extended

Also related to Hungary’s atomic energy sector, Finance Minister Mihály Varga has proposed legislation to alter the construction of the Paks 2 Power Plant project.

Orbán Meets Rosatom Leader: Paks Upgrade Construction Proceeds According to Schedule
Orbán Meets Rosatom Leader: Paks Upgrade Construction Proceeds According to Schedule

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Thursday met Aleksey Likhachev, the Director-General of Russian energy giant Rosatom, to discuss the upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant, the PM’s press chief has said. The construction of two new blocks at the plant is proceeding according to schedule, and in compliance with Hungarian and European Union regulations, the […]Continue reading

Production at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, built in 1980 and now providing close to 40 percent of Hungary’s electricity, is being halted and replaced by the next, Paks 2 project. The new project, paid with Russian loans, will cost 3,500 billion forint (EUR 10 billion).

Varga’s proposal suggests that the repayment of the Russian loans provided for the project begin in 2031 instead of 2026, but that its repayment term reduced from 21 to 16 years. Additionally, there will be more interest on the loan since its repayment will begin much later.

Paks 2 Nuclear Power Plant Gets Energy Office Permit
Paks 2 Nuclear Power Plant Gets Energy Office Permit

Hungary’s energy regulatory authority (MEKH) has given its permit for the construction of the Paks 2 nuclear power plant, the agency said in a statement on Friday. Atomerőmű Zrt, the company responsible for the project, submitted an application for a construction permit to MEKH in October 2020, the statement noted. After examining the contents of […]Continue reading

The reasoning behind the decision is that the new sections of the plant will not reach operation at the expected time of 2023 for the first block and 2026 for the second.

By 2031, the repayment of the loan may be payable with the energy generated from the power plant, but this depends on the value of that energy. Regardless of the project’s completion, repayment must begin in 10 years.

Opposition Accuses Govt of 'Turning State Assets Into Private Fortunes'
Opposition Accuses Govt of 'Turning State Assets Into Private Fortunes'

Hungary’s opposition parties on Thursday signed a statement protesting against what they called the government’s “steps to preserve the regime and to channel public funds and taxpayer money into [ruling party] Fidesz cadres’ pockets”. “At the same time, we also vigorously protest all decisions that go against the interests of the Hungarian people,” the statement […]Continue reading

Featured photo illustration by Tamás Sóki/MTI