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 Vietnam: nuclear still a go

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PostSubject: Vietnam: nuclear still a go   Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:38 am

Vietnam: nuclear still a go
By Ben Bland. 16 March 2011

As a large rain storm hit Hanoi on Tuesday lunchtime, some people cancelled meetings and rushed to take their kids home from school after erroneous rumours circulated suggesting that Vietnam was being hit by “radioactive rain” that had been blown over from Japan. (The World Health Organization has issued a statement insisting that such rumours, which have been spreading around Asia, are unfounded.) Despite the febrile atmosphere caused by the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan, the Vietnamese government has said that it intends to forge ahead with a plan to build the country’s first nuclear power plants, with Japanese and Russian assistance.

Nguyen Phuong Nga, spokeswoman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry, said that nuclear safety was a top priority and was “particularly important in the context of climate change and natural disasters, particularly the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.” She added that Vietnam would work closely with Japan and other international partners to develop nuclear energy while “ensuring nuclear safety and environmental protection.” Tran Thanh Minh, former director of Vietnam’s institute for nuclear science and technology, told beyondbrics that the Vietnamese government was right to stay the course despite the burgeoning nuclear crisis in Japan. “I’m concerned about what’s happening in Japan but, like most nuclear scientists, I’m not that concerned,” he said. “Vietnam will be using the latest nuclear technology and will have to put a bigger focus on safety and engineering when it comes to our nuclear reactors.” He said that the risk from earthquakes and tsunamis to future nuclear power plants in Vietnam was likely to be minimal given that the country is not that close to Asia’s most seismically active areas. But he added that the government and scientists would have to think carefully about the potential challenge of rising sea levels, given that Vietnam is one of the countries most exposed to climate change. Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister, and Nguyen Tan Dung, his Vietnamese counterpart, signed an agreement in October that will see Japan build two nuclear reactors for Vietnam.

The Japanese nuclear project, which will be located in Ninh Thuan province, in southern Vietnam, was the first order for the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co, a public-private venture established last year to help export Japan’s nuclear technology. Global competition to sell nuclear technology to energy-hungry developing nations is heating up, with France, South Korea and the US vying with Japan for lucrative overseas contracts. Concern over the bungled handing of the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will not exactly enhance Japan’s international nuclear reputation. But Japan’s ability to provide soft loans and other financial support has helped it to win significant infrastructure business in Vietnam over recent years. The question for Vietnam is how far the costs of reconstruction following the devastating earthquake and tsunami eat into Japan’s kitty for overseas aid and soft loans.
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