BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Russian nuclear group Rosatom unit JSC Atomstroyexport will soon issue the first major international tender for steam turbines at Hungary's new nuclear power plant, a top Hungarian government official said on Wednesday.
Hungary signed a deal with Russia to build two Russian VVER 1200 reactors for 12.5 billion euros ($13.97 billion), with 80 percent funded by a Russian loan and 20 percent by Hungary, which will own the plant in Paks, 100 km (60 miles) south of Budapest.
Environmental groups and Hungary's opposition criticized the government for what they said was the opaque way the contract was issued to Russia's state-owned nuclear giant in 2014.
After clearing a European Union probe on potential illegal state aid in March, construction work could begin in early 2018, Attila Aszodi, nominated as state secretary for the project, told the Reuters Central & Eastern Europe Investment Summit.
This preparation phase could cost 600-900 million euros over 12 months, he said, adding main costs would be incurred between 2021 and 2024 when the main reactor sites were built and machinery installed.
"I believe that in two years from now, if all conditions are right, then... the nuclear construction can begin," Aszodi said.
He said the first major international tender for the steam turbines could be issued "very soon", without giving a date.
"The Russian partner is committed to making this an international project," he said, adding that the turbine tender was expected to attract two or three bidders but other tenders would draw more interest.
Based on a similar project in Finland, General Electric Alstom, Siemens and Toshiba could bid to manufacture turbines, he said.
Hungary's Paks plant currently has four Russian-built VVER 440 reactors with a combined capacity of about 2,000 megawatts (MW), which will be decommissioned by 2037.
Aszodi said there will be no more than six years when the two new blocks and the old ones operate concurrently.
Maintaining nuclear capacity does not mean renewables did not have a place in Hungary's power system, he said.
He said nuclear power would cover about 40 percent of Hungary's power consumption until the end of the century. "So this cannot stop renewables entering," he said.
Reporting by Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai; Editing by Edmund Blair