“We have already started large-scale excavation work,” state-owned domestic news agency Ria Novosti reported Alexander Merten, vice-president of general contractor ASE JSC, a Rosatom subsidiary, as saying.
“Excavation work is being carried out for Unit 5 down to five metres and preparatory earthworks are being carried out for Unit 6,” Mr Merten said.
Concrete pouring for the nuclear island is scheduled to begin in autumn 2023 and the plants should be built by 2030.
The announcement follows confirmation last month that Hungary’s nuclear regulator had granted a construction licence for the two new plants, which are to be built by Rosatom under a €12.5bn ($12.5bn) deal signed in 2014 between Budapest and Moscow.
The Hungarian Nuclear Energy Authority said the existing Russian-built station at Paks, which has four 479-MW VVER units, can be expanded with two new VVER-1200 pressurised water reactor units, pending further licences.
Nuclear energy is not subject to European Union sanctions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The existing Paks station is Hungary’s only commercial nuclear power facility. Its four reactors provide about 48% of the country’s electricity.
Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin agreed on Paks 2 in 2014, but the project has gone through delays and permitting issues.
Rosatom was said to be preparing additional information to be submitted to the Hungarian Nuclear Energy Authority in relation to the licensing procedure for the project.
In October 2021 the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority said further evaluation and analysis was needed in some areas before it could issue permits.