Vietnam wary as China commissions nuclear power plants near border

By VnExpress   October 10, 2016 | 12:39 pm GMT+7
Vietnam wary as China commissions nuclear power plants near border
A nuclear power plant in China. Photo by Shubert Ciencia, CC BY 2.0

Energy experts urge Vietnam to keep an eye on what's going on the other side.

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute is calling for the development of a radioactivity surveillance system in northern Vietnam after China started operation at three new nuclear power plants close to the border.

Nguyen Hao Quang, the vice director of the institute under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said at a meeting last week that his organization has struggled to find funding for the system even though the government gave a nod to the project in 2010.

The Chinese plants demand “emergency” actions, he said.

“With the very strong nuclear activity in China across the border, we suggest that checkpoints be set up in the area to promptly detect any impacts,” Quang said.

The three Chinese plants went online last month in the provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong and in Hainan Island, with a total capacity of 2,250 megawatts.

The plant in Guangxi is only 50 kilometers from the Vietnamese border and less than 500 kilometers from Hanoi.

China plans to expand its nuclear power network to 170 plants with a combined capacity of 195,000 megawatts by 2050, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nuclear safety experts say Vietnam needs to beef up its surveillance capacities and set up an exchange system to receive regular updates from China on the plants’ operation.

Le Van Hong, a researcher from the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute, said Vietnam should devise measures to deal with "possible disasters."

Vuong Huu Tan, the head of the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety, said Vietnam and China are both members of the Convention on Nuclear Safety, under which a country is entitled to demanding another to provide status updates on any plant.

Tan said the agency is going to discuss with its Chinese counterpart about information exchange.

Vietnam itself plans the first two nuclear power plants in the central province of Ninh Thuan with technical assistance from Russia and Japan.

But following the nuclear disaster in Japan’s Fukushima in 2011, the Vietnamese government ordered relevant agencies to thoroughly review safety measures and last year announced that it would delay work on the first nuclear plant until 2020.

Related news:

Vietnam postpones start-up of first nuclear power plant to 2028

Vietnam’s Russian-funded nuclear power plant faces six-year delay

vietnam-wary-as-china-commissions-nuclear-power-plants-near-border