Vietnam scraps nuclear power project as costs spiral

By Hoai Thu, Vo Hai   November 22, 2016 | 05:50 am PT
Vietnam scraps nuclear power project as costs spiral
The area earmarked for a nuclear power project in Ninh Thuan Province. Photo by VnExpress/Son Ninh
Business insiders say investing in coal or oil power plants will be cheaper.

The National Assembly, Vietnam’s top legislature, decided to scrap the country’s nuclear power plans for the central province of Ninh Thuan on Tuesday after business insiders pointed to uncompetitive prices.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade proposed an end to the project on November 10, and the motion passed with 92 percent of legislators’ votes on Tuesday.

The project has been ended due to economic reasons, not safety or technological issues, heard a conference that followed the assembly’s vote.

Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the Government Office, said that Vietnam’s economy has gone through significant changes since the project was approved seven years ago.

The country now needs money to invest in infrastructure to boost socio-economic development and to solve problems caused by climate change.

“We want to focus our resources on strategic national projects,” Dung said, referring to the north-south expressway and Long Thanh Airport in southern Vietnam, which is expected to ease the burden currently faced by Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCM City.

In November 2009 legislators approved a project to build two nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 4,000 megawatts, which was expected to meet 5.7 percent of the country’s total electricity demand by 2030.

The cost of the project has escalated from the original estimate of VND200 trillion (nearly $9 billion) to VND400 trillion.

Dung said Vietnam’s power supply will not be threatened without the Ninh Thuan project as the country has plans to invest in coal-fired and natural gas power plants with a total capacity of 6,000 megawatts by 2030.

Duong Quang Thanh, chairman of the state-owned Electricity of Vietnam, said that: “Other sources of energy such as coal and oil are cheaper, so investing in nuclear power is no longer competitive.”

Officials from the trade ministry said the infrastructure and personnel already in place for the nuclear power project will be put to use at other power plants.

Dung said the Russian and Japanese developers for the nuclear project respect Vietnam’s decision.

He said Vietnam’s withdrawal from the project will not affect its relations with these countries.

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