News / Asia

US Deal Spotlights Vietnam's Ambitious Nuclear Plans

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh during ASEAN meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, meets with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh during ASEAN meetings in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.
Marianne Brown
An agreement signed between the United States and Vietnam earlier this month could allow U.S. companies to sell nuclear technology to Vietnam. The deal still needs to be ratified by the U.S. Congress, but the agreement has nonetheless put what some critics say are Vietnam’s overly ambitious nuclear power plans in the spotlight.
On October 10, Secretary of State John Kerry signed a civil cooperation agreement with Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific leaders summit in Brunei.
The so-called 123 Agreement will allow U.S. companies to export nuclear equipment to Vietnam and take advantage of the country’s potential nuclear power market, which is expected to grow from $10 billion currently to $50 billion by the end of 2030.
Despite having its own sources of coal, oil and hydropower, energy analysts predict Vietnam will have to import energy as soon as 2015 to maintain its rapidly growing economy. In anticipation of the problem, the government has announced ambitious plans to build as many as 13 nuclear power plants over the next 20 years. Deals have already been made with Russia and Japan.
Murray Hiebert, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, thinks these nuclear projects require long-term investments and relationships. However, he says, the U.S. nuclear deal does not appear to be solely about U.S. economic interests.
“I think there are two things that are at work here, one is potentially the economics and the jobs, the other is the U.S. has moved quite quickly to improve relations with Vietnam. We’ve had President Sang visiting here in July... [and] Vietnam is part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership along with the U.S. and 10 other countries,” said Hiebert.
Not everyone is happy about the plans to build a nuclear energy industry in Vietnam.
The country is on a seismic fault line and has a long coastline. In 2011, a study by an Italian research institution suggested the site planned for the first reactor, in Ninh Thuan province, could be especially vulnerable to earthquake-generated tsunamis.
So far, only a few critics have voiced their concerns, but Hiebert says this number could grow with time.
“Does it eventually lead to opposition in Vietnam like we had to the Chinese-invested bauxite mine or to the high speed rail link between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City? I really don’t know, but I suspect as Vietnam gets closer to developing nuclear reactors that there will be more questioning among the environmental groups and others,” said Hiebert.
Some experts within the country have raised concerns that the government’s plans are too ambitious. One of them is Pham Duy Hien, a former director of the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute, which houses Vietnam’s nuclear research reactor.
Hien says there are reports that plans to start building two Russian-funded reactors have been delayed, but so far there is no official confirmation. He says they have to be delayed because not enough groundwork has been done.
Hien points out that although Vietnam does need energy, it does not need it so badly that it must rush to get a plant ready by 2020.
Crucially, the proposed U.S. deal prohibits Vietnam from enriching or reprocessing plutonium or uranium while developing nuclear energy.
That is aimed at preventing Vietnam from developing nuclear weapons, but regional defense expert Professor Carl Thayer from the University of New South Wales in Australia says he thinks such nuclear proliferation concerns are minimal.
“It would make perfect sense if major powers are against you to blackmail or threaten with nuclear weapons… You could tell China, ‘yes you can kill us or defeat us but we’ll destroy Shanghai’, but I don’t see that.”
Thayer said the signing of the 123 Agreement is an indication of strategic trust between the countries and any backtracking on Vietnam’s part would be too risky.
Although it’s impossible to say for sure whether the U.S. Congress will ratify the deal, as long as nuclear power is handled in a safe way and used only for civilian purposes, Hiebert says he believes the Obama administration will put forward a good case for the agreement to go ahead.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Stephen Kennedy
October 25, 2013 8:15 AM
The logjam on nuclear power plant construction is about to end, as the first of the new generation of reactors, Westinghouse AP1000, Areva EPR, and Rosatom VVER1200 will be completed in the next year or two. You can add the Korean APR1400 to that list as well (although that will take another 3 years in the UAE).

Once countries see these plants can be built on time and on budget (the 2 EPRS under construction in Taishan China for example), there will be a rush to build up this safe, clean, virtually limitless supply of cheap energy. The lead will be taken in Asia as those are the countries at the appropriate stage of development and need for energy.

by: musawi melake
October 24, 2013 8:24 PM
What a shameful scene!, after forgetting the humiliating historical defeat, the Americans are finally forced to shake hands with the Victors! So, the next defeat would be a nuclear one!, very good and long live Communism!

By the way when are we going to see a similar hand-shake between a US-dignitary and Mr. Bin Landens depute!j, at least Mr. Mullah Omar deserves this as he has already vanquished the Americans.
In Response

by: John Lone
October 24, 2013 10:38 PM
nonsense and paranoid, no one force us to shake hands with Vietnam. Their economic is expandind and they need energy and electricity to keep those factories humming and we are in to help them in term of energy.

by: Gazbin3 from: Sydney Australia
October 24, 2013 10:38 AM
No one will want to buy Vietnamese produce such as coffee once it has gone down the nuclear path. Vietnam's tourism will grind to a halt.

The idea of Vietnam actually needing nuclear reactors is backward and plain crazy. Some people in government have been bribed - that is the only explanation for such stupidity and short sightedness.
In Response

by: John Lone
October 24, 2013 10:40 PM
ignorance and backward thinking at best!
In Response

by: Jim Hopf from: San Jose, CA
October 24, 2013 1:42 PM
Save the hyperbole.

Why is it that you have no problem with Vietnam using coal (which it currently does), which is thousands of times worse than nuclear from a public health and environmental perspective. Coal-fired generation causes ~1000 deaths every single day (worldwide) whereas Fukushima, the only significant release of pollution in non-Soviet nuclear's entire history, is projected to have no measurable public health impact.

Anyone switching from fossil fuels to nuclear is always very good news.

You an Australian coal miner, perhaps?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs