An application was submitted in July 2020 to construct Paks II alongside the existing Paks plant, 100 kilometres southwest of Budapest on the banks of the Danube river. Procedures allowed the HAEA 12 months to make its decision, with the possibility of extension by three months. That extension was triggered in July this year, but having been unable to reach a decision within the extension, HAEA said yesterday that it needs still more time.

"The main purpose of the licensing procedure is to verify that the nuclear units to be built meet the highest domestic nuclear safety requirements," HAEA said. It added the 280,000 page application "is extremely thorough in several respects," but in order to be able to fully verify all requirements, "further assessment and analysis is needed in some areas."

HAEA mentioned that it needs to take into account the recommendations of a team of experts assembled by the International Atomic Energy Agency which reviewed a preliminary HAEA opinion in late 2020. "To this end, HAEA shall order further rectification of deficiencies in the licensing procedure," it said. HAEA did not say how much extra time it would need.

The Paks II project was launched in early 2014 by an inter-governmental agreement between Hungary and Russia for two VVER-1200 reactors to be supplied by Rosatom, with the contract supported by a Russian state loan to finance the majority of the project.

HAEA issued a site licence for Paks II in March 2017 and in the same month came approval from the European Commission that the new plant's effects on competition would be acceptable, subject to certain commitments by the Hungarian government. Groundwork began this year, following receipt of a specific licence for that.

The need for Paks II was highlighted by Péter János Horváth, the head of the Hungarian Energy and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, at the Energy Investment Forum 2021 in Budapest yesterday. "In order to achieve carbon neutrality, it is essential to maintain nuclear-based electricity generation: the extension of the operating time of Paks and the construction of Paks II," he said.