17 January 2014

Significant Further Delay for Vietnam’s Nuclear Plans [Updated]

Updated on 1 February 2014

The Prime Minister of Vietnam announced 15 January 2014 that it might delay construction of its first nuclear power plant to 2020 to ensure “safety and efficiency.” Phan Minh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Ninh Thuan Nuclear Plant Project Management Board, confirmed that a “realistic schedule” for the project to build two Russian VVER-1000 reactors would be first concrete in 2017 or 2018. A second project, to be supplied by Japanese companies is also to be delayed. Vietnam has plans to build four nuclear units at Phuoc Dinh in the southeastern province of Ninh Thuan, with Phase I of the project originally scheduled to begin construction of its first two reactors in 2014 with operation in 2020. The latest delay at Ninh Thuan follows a decision in September 2013 to postpone construction from 2014 to 2017.

In 2009 the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam adopted a resolution on the construction of a nuclear power plant consisting of 2 power units of 1000 MW installed capacity each in Ninh Thuan Province. In 2011 an agreement was reached whereby an 8 billion dollar loan to Vietnam would be provided by the Russian Ministry of Finance for the construction of two reactors at Phuoc Dinh. Phase II of the Ninh Thuan project is based on a 2010 agreement with Japan’s Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) for the supply of four nuclear reactors to be built at Vinh Hai, also in Ninh Thuan province. In September 2011, a consortium of 13 Japanese companies, including nine electric utilities, along with Hitachi and Toshiba, operating under the newly created International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co. Ltd, signed a memorandum with Vietnam Electricity to start talks on reactor bids. The Japanese government is expected to provide the bulk of financing for the plant through development aid and export promotion programs run by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. As late as September 2013, the Director General of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency laid out the timetable for Vietnam’s first nuclear reactor to be operating by 2020 and a total of 14 units by 2030, but admitted that there were challenges including, difficulties in understanding and applying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations and lack of systematic training of staff.

The IAEA under its Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) Mission has played a central role in assisting Vietnam to develop its nuclear power program, despite conflicting evidence that the sites chosen in Ninh Thuan, are vulnerable to tsunamis.

As detailed in the 2013 WNISR, Vietnam’s nuclear program had already experienced delays, with predictions by the International Atomic Energy Agency being proved unreliable.