UPDATE 1-Hungary parliament approves lifespan extension of Paks nuclear plant

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BUDAPEST, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Hungary's parliament on Wednesday approved extending the lifespan of four existing Russian-built reactors of the Paks nuclear power plant, greenlighting the government's plans of operating them up to 20 years longer.

The government announced in June that Hungary was looking to extend the lifespan of the reactors, and in September the country applied to the European Union seeking approval for the plan.

Parliament approved the legislation submitted by deputy PM Zsolt Semjen with 170 votes in favour, eight votes against and one abstention.

With soaring crude and gas prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and concerns about energy supplies, several countries have been considering extending the lifespans of their nuclear plants or building new reactors.

Hungary also plans to expand its nuclear plant in Paks, with Russia's Rosatom building two VVER reactors with capacity of 1.2 gigawatts each, in addition to the currently working four reactors.

The project, which has been significantly delayed, was awarded in 2014 without a tender to Rosatom. That has often been cited as a sign of warm ties between Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Paks plant currently has four small, Russian-built VVER 440 reactors with a combined capacity of about 2,000 megawatts. They started operating between 1982 and 1987 and are scheduled to retire in 2032-2037. (Reporting by Anita Komuves Editing by Bill Berkrot)