How the earthquake risk around the PAX nuclear power plant is minimized

How the earthquake risk around the PAX nuclear power plant is minimized

Construction workers steps are difficult. On this day, hot winds blow over the dusty land of the Pannonian lowlands. A few meters from them, three flags flutter between containers, bulkheads and pallets. They give an indication of what will be built here: two more blocks of reactors at the Pax Nuclear Power Plant, Hungary’s only nuclear power plant, about 180 kilometers across the Austrian border.

There are the flags of Hungary, Russia and the Russian Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom). Because the expansion of the nuclear power plant – Pak-2 – is financed by Russian loans. But this is only part of the complex problem area that opens up here, next to the Danube.

The expansion of the nuclear power plant was already supposed to begin two years ago. The site permit was granted by the Hungarian Nuclear Safety Authority in 2017, and some accommodation for workers has already been built. Everything is just waiting for the building permit. After the delay, it should now come in the fall. Completion is scheduled for 2027.

But there are new insights that could shake up plans. Or at least it should, according to geologists from the University of Vienna. In a report of the Austrian Federal Environment Agency, it came to the conclusion that the nuclear power plant is located in an earthquake zone. Not only that: There is a so-called geological fault line directly under the nuclear power plant. The danger here: “Tectonic breakdown often does not move for 10,000 years. But if a strong earthquake occurs, the Earth’s crust moves by decimeters or meters within seconds and also leaves a crack on the surface,” explains geologist Kurt Decker, one of the authors. Research has proven that fracture caused such fissures in the past. Buildings can be structurally secured against earthquakes. “But there is no basis for such compensation that he can withstand.” The danger is clear. Decker: “There is a possibility of radioactive material being emitted.”

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