Paks Nuclear Power Plant

Paks Nuclear Power Plant

Paks Nuclear Power Plant
Location of Paks Nuclear Power Plant in Hungary
Country Hungary
Location Paks
Coordinates 46°34′21″N 18°51′15″E / 46.57250°N 18.85417°E / 46.57250; 18.85417Coordinates: 46°34′21″N 18°51′15″E / 46.57250°N 18.85417°E / 46.57250; 18.85417
Status Operational
Construction began 1967
Commission date 28 December 1982
Owner(s) MVM
Operator(s) Paksi Atomerőmű Zrt.
Nuclear power station
Reactor type VVER
Reactor supplier Atomstroyexport
Power generation
Units operational 4 x 500 MW
Make and model VVER-440/V213
Units planned 2 x 1,200 MW
Nameplate capacity 2,000 MW
Average generation 14,818 GWh
Paks Nuclear Power Plant under construction in the 1970s
Main entrance

The Paks Nuclear Power Plant (Hungarian: Paksi atomerőmű), located 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from Paks, central Hungary, is the first and only operating nuclear power station in Hungary. Altogether, its four reactors produce more than 50 percent of the electrical power generated in the country.

Technical parameters

VVER is the Soviet designation for a pressurized water reactor. The number following VVER, in this case 440, represents the power output of the original design. The VVER-440 Model V213, was a product of the first uniform safety requirements drawn up by the Soviet designers. This model includes added emergency core cooling and auxiliary feedwater systems as well as upgraded accident localization systems.

Each reactor contains 42 tons of lightly enriched uranium dioxide fuel. Fuel takes on average three years to be used (or "burned") in the reactors; after this the fuel rods are stored for five years in an adjacent cooling pond before being removed from the site for permanent disposal.[1]

The power plant is nearly 100% owned by state-owned power wholesaler Magyar Villamos Művek. A few shares are held by local municipalities, while a voting preference or "golden" share is held by the Hungarian government. The government is planning to partially privatize MVM but has said that due to security concerns, the Paks nuclear power generator will be kept fully state owned.

One brand-new reactor was bought from Poland after the Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant project was abandoned in its late development stage.

StationTypeNet capacityGross capacityConstruction startGrid dateExp. shutdown
PAKS-1VVER-440/V213 475 MWe500 MWe01-Aug-197428-Dec-19822032
PAKS-2VVER-440/V213 475 MWe500 MWe01-Aug-197406-Sept-19842034[2]
PAKS-3VVER-440/V213 475 MWe500 MWe01-Oct-197928-Sept-19862036
PAKS-4VVER-440/V213 475 MWe500 MWe01-Oct-197916-Aug-19872037
PAKS-5VVER-1200 1114 MWe1200 MWe2018 (planned)2025 (planned)[3]-
PAKS-6VVER-1200 1114 MWe1200 MWe2020 (planned)2027 (planned)-

Lifetime extension

In 2000, the Paks Nuclear Power Plant commissioned a feasibility study which concluded that the plant may remain in operation for another 20 years beyond the original 30-year design lifetime. The study was updated in 2005 with similar conclusions. In November 2005, Hungary's Parliament passed a resolution with overwhelming bipartisan majority to support the lifetime extension. The feasibility study concluded that the non-replaceable parts are in sufficient condition to remain in operation for another 20 years while a minority of replaceable parts needed replacement or refurbishment.

The power generator made repeated surveys of public opinion on the lifetime extension and concluded that support for the decision hovered near 70%.[4]

Following the Fukushima I nuclear accidents in March 2011, Hungary's government said it would conduct a stress test on the Paks Nuclear Power Plant to assess safety, but it would not abandon plans for lifetime extension and it would also go ahead with plans for its expansion.[5]

Unit 1 was granted a life-extension to 2032 in 2012, and unit 2 to 2034 in 2014. Units 3 and 4 are likely to be granted similar extensions in 2016 and 2017.[2]

The nine Ganz power generators will be serviced by Alstom one per year between 2013 and 2021.[6]

Power uprating

Thanks to optimizations, modernization and fuel upgrades it was possible to safely increase the output power of the Unit 4 reactor to 500 MWe in 2006, followed by Unit 1 in 2007. With upgrades to the remaining two units the plant's power generation reached 2000 MWe in 2009.[7][8]


On 30 March 2009 the National Assembly of Hungary gave its principal consent by votes 330 for, 6 against and 10 abstentions to the preparation works of the possible new units. On 26 February 2010 the owner state company MVM Group decided the expansion with about 2000 billion Hungarian Forints price.[9]

On 18 June 2012 the Hungarian government ranked Paks expansion as a "high priority project of the national economy", in this context established a committee (Nuclear Power Governmental Committee) for prepare the factual steps. The Nuclear Power Governmental Committee is headed by Viktor Orbán (Prime Minister) and has two members; Mihály Varga (Minister of National Economy) and Zsuzsanna Németh (National Developmental Minister).[10] As of 2016, Hungary is said to import 30% of its electricity.[11]

According to the agreement signed by Zsuzsanna Németh (National Developmental Minister of Hungary) and Sergey Kiriyenko (Rosatom chairman) on 14 January 2014 Paks Nuclear Power Plant will be expanded by the Russian state company Rosatom.[12] Eighty percent of the project’s cost will be financed with a 10 billion Euro credit line from Russia.[13] Subject to European Commission approval, construction of two VVER-1200 reactors is planned to start in 2018.[14]


2003 incident

An INES level 3 event ("serious incident") occurred on 10 April 2003 at the Unit 2 reactor. The incident occurred in the fuel rod cleaning system located under 10 metres (33 ft) of water in a cleaning tank next to the spent fuel cooling pond, located adjacent to the reactor in the reactor hall. The reactor had been shut down for its annual refueling and maintenance period on 28 March and its fuel elements removed.[15]

The cleaning system had been installed to remove dirt and corrosion from fuel elements and control rods during shutdown, as there had previously been problems with magnetite corrosion products from the steam generators being deposited on the fuel elements which affected the flow of coolant. The sixth set of thirty partially spent elements were in the tank having been cleaned, the cleaning having finished at 16:00. At 21:50, radiation alarms mounted on the cleaning system detected a sudden increase in the amount of krypton-85. The suspicion was that one of the fuel rod assemblies was leaking. At 22:30, the reactor hall was evacuated because of elevated radiation levels both there and in the ventilation stack.[16]

At 02:15 the following morning, the hydraulic lock of the cleaning vessel lid was released, and immediately the dose rate increased significantly (6-12 millisieverts/hour) around the spent fuel pond and the pool containing the cleaning machine, and the water level dropped for a short time, by about 7 cm (2.8 in). Water samples from the pond showed contamination due to damaged fuel rods. The lid on the cleaning machine was winched up at 04:20, but one of the three lifting cables attached to it broke; and it was not finally removed until 16 April.

The incident was initially given an INES rating of 2 ("incident"). However a video examination of the damaged fuel elements following the successful removal of the lid caused the rating to be raised to 3 ("serious incident"). This revealed that cladding on the majority of the 30 fuel elements had been broken, with radioactive spent uranium fuel pellets spilling from the elements into the bottom of the cleaning tank. Apart from the release of radioactive material, a concern was that the accumulation of a compact mass of fuel pellets could lead to a criticality accident, as the pellets were in a tank of neutron moderating water. Water containing neutron absorbing boric acid was added into the tank to raise its concentration to 16 g/kg to prevent this. Ammonia and hydrazine were also added to the water to help with the removal of radioactive iodine-131.

An investigation by the Hungarian Atomic Energy Agency concluded that the cause of the incident was inadequate cooling of the fuel elements, which were heated due to the radioactive decay of short-lived fission products. These were kept cool by water circulated by a submerged water pump. However the cooling was inadequate, leading to the damage to some elements through a build-up of steam around them, depriving them of most of their cooling. The investigation proposed that the severe damage probably occurred when the lid was released, causing thermal shock to cladding because of the sudden entry of cool water into the system, and explosive steam production.[16]

One of the interesting results of the investigation was that the Hungarian Atomic Agency had placed too much trust in the technology and knowledge of the French Framatome Company (now Areva). The agency did not investigate documentation provided by the company deeply enough, missing a fatal design flaw in the Framatome-designed, produced, and operated cleaning equipment.

The discharge of radioactive gases through the stack continued for several days after the incident, although the Hungarian Atomic Energy Agency determined that the radiation levels adjacent to the plant were only about 10% above normal. However, the reactor remained out of service for over a year, finally resuming commercial electricity production in September 2004.[17]

The damaged fuel was completely removed by the end of 2006[18] and in 2014 transported to Russia for final disposal.[19]

2009 outage incident

A Self Powered Neutron Detector (SPND) was dropped when the wire rope holding it broke during an outage on 4 May 2009. The event was rated as INES 2. All staff were safely evacuated, and no member was exposed to more than the permitted daily radiation dose.[20]

2016 incident

A reactor shut itself down on 14 July 2016. It will operate again.


  1. "Paks Nuclear Power Plant website (English version)". Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  2. 1 2 "Paks unit 2 gets 20-year life extension". World Nuclear News. 27 November 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  4. "Paks Nuclear Power Plant website (English version) - Service life extension". Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  5. "Paks nem zár be". Retrieved 2011-03-22.
  6. "Alstom to retrofit generators at Paks nuclear plant". Nuclear Engineering International. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  7. "Core monitoring system modernization at Paks NPP to serve unit power uprating" (PDF). May 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  8. "Paks Nuclear Power Plant website (English version) - Capacity upgrade". Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  9. "CEO says construction of new blocks at Paks could be completed by 2020-2025". Budapest Business Journal. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  10. "Paks expansion became a high priority project". Napi Gazdaság. 12 June 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  11. "Hungary's nuke deal puts Vestager on spot". Politico. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  12. "It's official: Rosatom backs plans to double Paks capacity". Budapest Business Journal. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  13. "Varga: Cheapest credit line for Paks necessary". Budapest Business Journal. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  14. "Hungary hopeful of Paks II approval within weeks". World Nuclear News. 20 September 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  15. "Nuclear safety review for the year 2003" (PDF). International Atomic Energy Agency. August 2003. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  16. 1 2 "Report to the Chairman of the Hungarian Atomic Energy Commission on the Authority investigation of the incident at Paks Nuclear Power Plant on 10 April 2003" (PDF). Technical Support Centre (TPC), Hungarian Ministry of the Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship. Hungarian Atomic Energy Agency. 23 May 2003. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  17. "PAKS Nuclear Power Plant press release archive". Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  19. "Ten years after incident, Paks fuel rods transported to Russia".
  20. "Outage Incident At Hungary's Paks-4 Rated INES Level 2". NucNet. 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
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