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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora