Heroes of Paks – the Hungarian Atom
Hungary’s National Atomic Energy Committee (OAB) was set up in 1956 and the country’s first research reactor went critical in 1959. An interstate treaty between Hungary and Soviet Union to build a nuclear power plant was signed in 1966 and, in 1967, the Paks site 100 km south of Budapest was chosen. An 880 MWe nuclear plant was ordered in 1971, and construction of the first two units by Atomenergoexport started in 1974, with the second two in 1979. The four VVER-440 reactors (model V-213) started up between 1982 and 1987.
The country’s commitment to nuclear energy has paid off, given that the cost of generating electricity at Paks has never increased faster than the rate of inflation, establishing it as the lowest cost generator in the country. Acually Paks’ four VVER-440 pressurized water reactors generate almost 40% of Hungary’s electricity. The four units have operated with 30-year load factors of 80-90%, according to data from the International Atomic Energy Agency, producing a total of over 350 billion units of electricity.
As a need to perform this enormous technical and architectural construction unbeliavable number of workers was contracted, and the life of the village of Paks was turned upside down, when constructions began. Number of the citizens of Paks grew double in 20 years, from 10 000 to 20 000. For the „newsettlers”, to reduce conflicts - knowing from previous experiences - a separate block-house district was built. Moreover, the need was double: arised from one side from the builders of the reactorplant and the new houses, (residuing in Paks only while building), and on the other side from the future workers of th plant. The housing estates for this reason were designed in a way, that after the builders left the flats could be used by the operating staff of the plant. The relationship between the residents of the village and the building workers after the initial problems were more or less quickly settled, and as the number of local residents doubled to 21 thousand people, the village received the status and rights of a town on 1st January 1979.
Young Hungarians – recruited by the KISZ (Hungarian Young Communist League) - were the ones bearing the brunt of the work. KISZ proudly declared Paks’s construcional sites as „heroicly supported” by itself, but in fact those young, hungry and vastly underpaid men – who daily built in 1000 tones of heavy concrete, laid down thousand kilometres of cables, mobillized and processed several thousand tones of stainless steel – were the real heroes of Paks, the entry of the Hungarian industry into the atomic age.