May 5, 2016 / 10:50 AM / 2 years ago

Croatia interested in role in Hungary's disputed nuclear project

SARAJEVO, May 5 (Reuters) - Croatia is interested in taking part in a disputed project to expand the Paks nuclear power plant its neighbour Hungary has awarded to Russia’s Rosatom, Croatia’s Entrepreneurship and Crafts Minister Darko Horvat said on Thursday.

Hungary has said it will press ahead with its plans to add two new reactors despite legal action started by European Union regulators against the country in November over concerns about the compatibility of the project with EU procurement rules.

“Croatia is interested in the project and is exploring a most suitable business model to help meet local demand,” Horvat told an economic conference in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

“We are exploring if this could be via financing or some other model but it has not been decided yet.”

Croatia, the EU’s newest member, meets 60 percent of its electricity demand from local sources and imports the rest.

The EU’s executive Commission has been holding talks to try to resolve differences after Hungary chose Rosatom in 2014 to build the two new reactors, partly financed by a favourably priced Russian loan worth 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion).

Apart from the alleged breach of public procurement rules, the Commission also has concerns the Paks plant would be overly dependent on Russia.

The Hungarian government has said it respected all relevant laws when it awarded the contract for the construction of the two new reactors and the refurbishment of two others.

The new 1,200-megawatt (MW) blocks at the Paks plant are expected to start commercial operation in 2025 and 2026.

$1 = 0.8751 euros Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Mark Potter

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