In the 1980s significant efforts were made to expand the Paks Nuclear Power Plant. The original idea was the construction of another WWER-440/213 type reactor unit, but those efforts were cancelled because the manufacture and standardising of the WWER-1000 units were decided in the Soviet Union. During the second half of the eighties, preparations were made for the building of two WWER-1000 units. Several units of the WWER-1000 type had proved their reliability in other countries (Bulgaria, the Russian Federation and Ukraine). Significant preparatory work with a budget of almost three billion forints was carried out on-site, primarily in the preparation of the landscaping, ground replenishment and in the building of the on-site transportation infrastructure. The location of the project was north from the axis of Unit 1-4. The service buildings (warehouses, pre-manufacturing yards, concrete plants and public works) from the past construction weren’t demolished, because everything could be useful during the new project … could be. Preparation of the project was cancelled by the government during the social changes (officially in 1990). The sole exception was the only high school in the country founded by the Paks Nuclear Power Plant specifically for the training of future specialists – the school works effectively even today.
The next milestone belongs to 1996-97. Paks Nuclear Power Plant Ltd. wanted to apply with three tenders to the capacity-expanding tender invited by Hungarian Power Companies Ltd. A feasibility study was made about the construction of the three potential contractors’ approximately 600 MWs power output units, in single and dual unit design: a CANDU-6 reactor unit by AECL, an AP-600 unit by Westinghouse (which got its licence at that time) and the currently under development WWER-640 design by Atomtstroyexport. The condition of the application was the making and the acceptance with the authorities of a preliminary environmental impact study, which was not attainable in the given time, due to the time-consuming characteristics of the making and the acceptance of those studies in the case of a nuclear power plant. Therefore, the PNPP couldn’t apply to the tender. In the end, there weren’t any winners in the category of over 200 MWs, so neither a coal-burning, nor a lignite-based, nor a nuclear reactor unit could be built. In the category of below 200 MWs just a few gas-fired power plants got the establishment licence. These were located in network distribution centres and used as a quick support. From the middle of the eighties several other offers were made concerning the construction of a new power plant. For example, a French offer was made about the construction of several 1,000 MWs units.
Almost 40 per cent of Hungary’s domestic energy production comes from the Paks Nuclear Power Plant. Currently (as it has been for years) public acceptance of the operation of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant is very high, standing at 73-74 per cent.
On the 30th of March 2009 Hungarian Parliament gave its principal consent by votes 330 for, 6 against and 10 abstained to the preparation works of the possible new units.
The current situation can be characterised by three simultaneous processes:
1. Because of the break-up of the Soviet Union and COMECON, several projects were halted on the then technological and constructional level. Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia will complete their unfinished units, in the main with the help of international funds. The coupling of former Soviet technology and western control techniques or fuel is not rare. Slowly, Romania will launch its new nuclear power plants being built for decades with Canadian technology and help.
2. A number of countries will or want to join the nuclear club. In Poland, the building of a nuclear power plant was cancelled by the events of the 1980s. Now, Poland wants to join the three Baltic states’ nuclear programme. Italy closed its units, now it is searching for a way to decrease the country’s hunger for energy – decision makers are thinking about the nuclear option. The acceptance of building new units in Switzerland and the United Kingdom is definitely positive, but currently only the aim is certain. There are two units under construction in Europe: one in Finland (Olkiluoto) and one in France (Flamanville). The new design was named EPR-1600 and is the result of Franco-German joint research. The construction intentions of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are very strong. Some countries are leaving the club: in Germany and The Netherlands a moratorium on construction has been implemented and the closure of operating units is urged by the governments. 49 per cent of the German people favour operation after 2021; 44 per cent are against. Units were closed in Sweden, but strong public anger developed against the decision. Currently, there is no construction or closure planned. Thirty-two per cent of the overall electrical power output in the EU is from nuclear reactors.
3. In almost every other country, the prolonging and performance-increasing of the current nuclear reactor units has been started.
The construction in Olkiuoto and the virtual picutre of Unit 3.
Currently, there are almost 440 operating nuclear reactor units in the world, with a total power output of approximately 380,000 megawatts. 17 per cent of all electrical power output is produced in nuclear power plants. According to professional forecasts, the built-in capacity could increase to 630,000 megawatts by 2030. It is difficult to determine the exact ratio of nuclear power plants and the number of units. Most of the future units will be over 1,000 MWs, but reasons for the smaller units’ existence will not disappear.
There are more than one hundred operating units in the United States, where the nuclear ratio is approximately 20 per cent. Incidentally, lifetime-prolonging activities are well-developed; all kinds of such activities originated from here. More than sixty reactor units are involved in these procedures and most of them have already got a licence for operating for another 20 years. The acquisition of combined construction and operating licences is progressive. The essence of the combined licence is that it is given after the investor proves the adequacy of the unit in terms of technological, safety and environmental protection standards. If everything is satisfactory, the terms of the construction and operating, and the beginning and the end of the construction are recorded in the combined licence. This means that investors can enter areas in advance and can construct the units in a flexible time period.
China and Russia are both planning the construction of reactor units in the next 30 years with 30-40,000 MWs of power output. One of these countries is a recognized designer and manufacturer, the other is the world’s largest market. Russian, French and Canadian technology is present in China, but the country is itself also developing nuclear units. India, Japan and South Korea are constructing and will construct nuclear units with an overall output of several tens of thousands MWs in the coming decades.
It is clear that the emphasis is on the eastern projects, while soon the American boom will be started. The boom’s effect might be the construction of new units in Europe. Realization of the investment will be differentiated, since the laws and regulations are different in each country (government decision or referendum, own financing or international credit, known or new units, etc.) so significant differences will be found in the method of licence acquisition and in realization.
Countries which are willing to construct, must make their decision very quickly, due to the finite amount of design and manufacturing capacity. Additional waiting is required with the fuel manufacturers, pre-orders are necessary. Training of future operating personnel has to be started, modernising and maintaining the regulatory systems and consultation with the public are also necessary. Countries without nuclear power plants have to know the probable reactions of their neighbours. Thus the question is rather complicated, but manageable.
Nuclear energy cannot be ignored when addressing the world’s energy hunger, but we have to find the appropriate energy-utilizing methods which help save and protect the environment.