Hanoi names China's possible radiation leaks among top 'disaster' risks

By Vo Hai   May 23, 2018 | 07:18 pm PT
Hanoi names China's possible radiation leaks among top 'disaster' risks
Flooding is one of the focuses of Hanoi's new risk management project. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
'Radioactive dust could spread far and wide, polluting the air and water sources.'

Hanoi authorities have approved a project to mitigate risks that could potentially result in disasters for the Vietnamese capital, including nuclear incidents in China.

The radiation risk is the only overseas factor the city is worried about, among 10 potential disaster-inducing risks that it is going to focus on.

Hanoi is one of the places in northern Vietnam that would be "seriously affected" if the three nuclear plants in southern China encounter incidents, a document on the project said. "Radioactive dust could spread far and wide, polluting the air and water sources," it said.

The city has tasked the Department of Science and Technology with drafting a detailed scenario for tackling radiation leaks and nuclear accidents.

The three Chinese nuclear power plants, which went into operation in 2016, stand in Guangxi and Guangdong Provinces and Hainan Island, all close to Vietnam's northern border. The plant in Guangxi is 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Quang Ninh Province, home to the popular Ha Long Bay, and less than 500 kilometers from Hanoi.

Following the plants' openings, the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute assured that Vietnam should not be worried about them as China could prevent any serious accidents from occurring thanks to new-generation nuclear reactors. However, many experts raised concerns about the safety of the nuclear power plants, urging Vietnam to stay vigilant and be prepared for a nuclear incident.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) considers an area within 300 kilometers of a reactor highly exposed in the event of an accident, so such areas must always be prepared for a nuclear or radiological emergency.

Vietnam has asked China to provide updates on the three nuclear power plants near the border.

Hanoi's disaster risk project will also focus on preparation works for possible breach of the Red River's floodbanks; water source pollution; fire, explosion or collapse of buildings; sky train or aviation accidents; risks that occur at crowded events; plagues; cyber attacks; widespread power outage and terrorism.

Officials said the need for the project stems from major disasters in the last few decades, such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 300,000 people and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that exposed 600,000 people to radiation.

In Vietnam, heavy rain and a storm in 1971 broke the Red River's floodbanks in Hanoi, killing 100,000 people and flooding an area of 250,000 hectares (620,000 acres). Heavy rain in late 2008 also paralyzed most of Hanoi's inner area for nearly a week.

Some man-made incidents in Vietnam also proved disastrous such as a train accident in the southern province of Dong Nai that killed more than 300 people in 1982, or a deadly fire at the International Trade Center in Ho Chi Minh City that left 60 people dead and 90 injured in 2002.

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