EU reportedly moves to block Russia-Hungary nuclear deal

The European Union is opposing a multibillion deal under which Hungary is to buy nuclear fuel rods from Russia for its old Paks nuclear power plant. Some media claim the deal has been blocked, though Budapest denies the reports.

Russian nuclear engineers are to build two new reactors with combined capacity of 1,200 megawatts at Hungary’s only nuclear power plant, which currently has four reactors. The deal signed last year involves a €10-billion loan that Moscow offered to Budapest on condition that the money would pay for the equipment, RT reported.

The new reactors would have to be loaded with Russian-made fuel rods, which is a matter of safety for the new reactors. However EU’s nuclear fuel purchasing agency Euratom is opposing the exclusive deal. The Financial Times reported Thursday that the European Commission last week backed Euroatom’s decision to block the deal.

The blockage was not immediately confirmed by European or Russian officials. Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs rejected the FT report and said Budapest would demand that the newspaper publish a retraction.

Hungary is among EU members opposing Brussels’ drive to break ties with Russia over the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is a vocal opponent of EU sanctions against Moscow, which have led to a trade war between Russia and Europe.

Orbán maintains his maverick position towards EU anti-Russian policies, which he views as harmful for Europe and imposed under pressure from Washington. Critics accuse him of authoritarian trends, with hawkish US Senator John McCain going as far as calling him a “neo-fascist dictator.”

Amid the criticism both at home and abroad, the PM’s Fidesz party won last year’s general election with a landslide victory, receiving almost 45 percent of votes.

However, Andras Giro-Szasz, Hungary’s state secretary responsible for government communications, has firmly denied the report of the EU veto or other prohibitive fines on its nuclear projects with Russia, in a statement to Hungarian state news agency MTI.

“It is not true that the EU has blocked the Paks II construction,” Giro-Szasz told the news agency AFP.

On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that EU has blocked the Hungary-Russia nuclear deal and its EU nuclear body, Euratom, has refused Hungary’s plans to import nuclear fuel from Russia.