Vietnam not in danger from China's nuclear power plants: expert

By Pham Huong   October 14, 2016 | 08:58 pm GMT+7

Three new power plants near the Chinese border are making Vietnam jumpy.

Vietnam should not be worried about the three nuclear power plants that China has begun operating near the border, according to Tran Chi Thanh, the director of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute.

He assured that China can prevent any serious accidents from occurring thanks to new-generation nuclear reactors.

He said even a leak would only release a low level of radiation into the atmosphere, with minimal risks to people’s heath.

However, many experts have raised concerns about the safety of the nuclear power plants, urging Vietnam to stay vigilant and be prepared for a nuclear incident.

“We have learnt from experience that most nuclear mishaps occur due to human errors,” Tran Huu Phat, an energy expert, said, implying that technical innovation can’t eliminate the risk of human errors.

The three plants are located in the provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong and on Hainan Island. The plant in Guangxi is just 50 kilometers from Vietnam's northern Quang Ninh Province and less than 500 kilometers from the capital Hanoi.

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

That means a large part of northern Vietnam is within the danger zone.

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

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said at a press briefing on Thursday that Vietnam has asked China to build a system to provide regular updates on the three plants.

The government signed a deal with China to develop a radioactivity surveillance system in 2012, said Vuong Huu Tan, the director of the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety, adding that no progress has been made since then.

Tan pointed to the fact that both Vietnam an China are members of the Convention on Nuclear Safety, so the country is entitled to demand China provide status updates on its nuclear plants.

“We are going to send a working team over there to meet with China’s nuclear safety agency so that both sides will soon reach an agreement on the best possible way to provide updates [on those nuclear plants],” said Tan.

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