UPDATE 1-Hungary expects EU clearance for Paks reactors in weeks

(Adds detail on Hungary nuclear plans)

PARIS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Hungary expects European Union clearance to build two Russian nuclear reactors at its Paks nuclear site in the coming weeks, a senior Hungarian government official said on Friday.

Last year, EU regulators started legal action against Hungary over a contract it awarded to Russia’s Rosatom to expand the Paks nuclear power plant.

Attila Aszodi, government commissioner for the Paks nuclear power plant in the prime minister’s office, told Reuters at the World Nuclear Association conference in London that Hungary expected two separate decisions on the procurement and state-aid aspects of the deal.

“Naturally, we assume a positive decision,” he said, adding European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic had already indicated negotiations were going well and were close to successful completion.

Hungary plans to build two Russian VVER 1200 reactors for a total budget of 12.5 billion euros ($13.9 billion), of which 80 percent will be financed by Russia and 20 percent by Hungary.

The project is fully owned by the Hungarian state.

Hungary plans to start building the reactors in 2018 and aims to complete the first one in 2025, and the second in 2026.

Paks currently has four small Russian-built VVER 440 reactors with a combined capacity of about 2,000 megawatts (MW)that account for 36 percent of Hungary’s power consumption.

These were built between 1982 and 1987 and will be retired between 2023 and 2037, Aszodi said.

That means that for a few years Hungary will have six nuclear reactors in operation, but he said there would be no overcapacity as the country already imports about a third of its power from abroad.

He said the ultimate aim was to keep the contribution of nuclear in Hungary’s power mix at just under 40 percent.

Hungary has total installed power generation capacity of just under 9,000 MW, of which half will be retired by 2030 as these are highly polluting fossil-fuel based plants.

Aszodi said Hungary’s grid operator estimated the country needed 7,000 MW of new generating capacity by 2030.

$1 = 0.8965 euros Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Potter