Vietnamese congress approves nuclear project

25 November 2009

Vietnam's plans to build two nuclear power plants continue to inch forward with the approval by the country's National Assembly of a resolution on investment policy for the project.

The Vietnamese government approved a nuclear power development plan in 2007, aiming for a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be online by 2020, and a general law on nuclear energy was passed in mid 2008. Since then work has been under way to develop the necessary legal and regulatory framework.

Details on the latest resolution are sketchy, with the news service of state broadcaster Voice of Vietnam saying only that a resolution had been passed concerning the building of two nuclear power plants in the south central province of Ninh Thuan and a hydroelectric plant in the north western Lai Chau province. The National Assembly's own report of the day's activities said that investment policies for both projects had been passed with majority approval. Reports posted on other official websites suggest a majority of 77%.

According to Voice of Vietnam, the first of the two nuclear plants comprising the Ninh Thuan project is to be built at Phuoc Dinh in Thuan Nam district, with work starting in 2014, and the second is to be built at Vinh Hai in the Ninh Hai district. The anticipated total cost for the two plants is given as VND 200,000 billion (approximately $11 billion).

Reports posted on the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission website, and elsewhere, suggest a lively debate took place before the resolution was passed. Proponents of the Ninh Thuan nuclear power project say it is necessary to help ease electricity shortages - the country is experiencing a growth in electricity demand of around 13% and in 2008 excessive demand led to rationing. However, some members of the Vietnamese National Assembly have voiced concerns over the cost of building the plants - the country would have to rely heavily on overseas loans for up to 85% of the plant equipment - and on Vietnam's lack of nuclear power experience and infrastructure.

Companies including Westinghouse, AtomStroyExport, Electricité de France, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) have all been involved in discussions about supplying nuclear plants to Vietnam, and South Korea has also expressed an interest in the project. Vietnam has signed nuclear cooperation and assistance agreements with countries including Japan, France, China, South Korea, the USA and Canada.