5 November 2008 - The Ministry of Industry and Trade has announced a plan to build two nuclear power plants in the central province of Ninh Thuan, which will be operational from 2020 to 2022.
The announcement was made at an international forum on nuclear power, held in Hanoi by the ministry and the Vietnam Energy Association.
Phan Minh Tuan, head of the preparation committee for nuclear power, said Ninh Thuan nuclear power plant No 1 would be in Phuoc Dinh Commune, Ninh Phuoc District, covering 540ha. Its two reactors will be put into commercial operation by 2020 and 2021.
The Ninh Thuan plant No 2 will be built in Vinh Hai Commune, Ninh Hai District, covering 556ha. Its two reactors will be put into commercial operation by 2021 and 2022.
As the world faces a growing energy crisis, with limited oil reserves and global warming as a result of carbon emissions, Vietnam's interest in nuclear power is appropriate, according to scientists specialising in atomic energy. These experts confirm that the benefits of nuclear power over other traditional sources make nuclear energy by 2020 a viable option for Vietnam.
At the forum, Thomas Mazour, an official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Division of Nuclear Power, affirmed that Vietnam is well prepared for the future nuclear power plants. He said that IAEA is ready to help countries, including Vietnam, to upgrade their nuclear safety and prepare for and respond to emergencies.
A leading expert in Vietnam of atomic energy, Professor Dr Pham Duy Hien, the former head of the Atomic Energy Commission, warned, however, that initially only one reactor should be activated.
"From this, we will try to develop a group of experts, as well as infrastructure, and learn how to implement nuclear laws," he said, adding that the project's success was not only in getting one reactor up and running, but to create an initial foundation for the next steps.
To generate nuclear power by 2020, construction will have to begin by 2025. Such a tight deadline means experts have to begin their work right away. Mr Hien warned that it usually takes 15 years to select and train the plant staff and select suitable people that can be held responsible for national security.
Other experts noted that considering Vietnam's current state, building four reactors at the same time may be too risky. China built their first nuclear plant in 1991, with a capacity of just 300 MW. Vietnam's plans call for four reactors, each with a capacity of 1000 MW.
Prof. Dr Tran Dinh Long, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Electricity Power Association, warned that building a nuclear power plant would require strict technical demands.
"It is not as easy as building a shoe-making factory. We cannot affirm that engineers who have studied for five years will be able to build a nuclear power plant. That's why scientists must be very careful in selecting technology, equipment and suppliers."
Professor Chu Hao, former Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, said that if the country did not really need nuclear power, the plants should be delayed, to wait for more advanced and safer technologies.
Vietnam has yet to even choose what technologies will be used for its first nuclear power plant.
Dr Vuong Huu Tuan, head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission, outlined the available details of the three separate projects.
The first is to build a nuclear power plant on one site, with two reactors, with a total capacity of 2000 MW to be operational by 2019 and 2020.
The second is to build a plant on two sites, with four reactors (with a total capacity of 4000 MW), with the same technology applied to both sites.
The final plan outlines building a plant on two sites, with four reactors (with a total capacity of 4000 MW), using two different technology models.