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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs