Share

Nuclear Power in Vietnam

(Updated 21 November 2014)

  • Vietnam has considered establishing nuclear power generation since 1995, and firm proposals surfaced in 2006.
  • Russia has agreed to finance and build 2400 MWe of nuclear capacity.
  • Japan has agreed similarly for another 2000 MWe.

Vietnam is the most significant of the three lower Mekong countries, with a population of 88 million. Vietnam produced 100.1 billion kWh gross in 2010 from 19.7 GWe of plant, giving per capita consumption of 1140 kWh/yr. In 2009, 33% of the country's capacity was hydro, 17% gas (CCGT), 12% coal, 6% oil – all under Vietnam Electricity Holding Co. (EVN), and 33% was with IPP & BOT outside EVN. In 2013 Vietnam produced 124.6 billion kWh, up 8.2%, from 32 GWe of plant (at year end)

Electricity supply in 2010 was 38% from hydro, 33.6% gas and 18.5% coal. GDP growth in 2010 was 6.8%. Total 120.8 billion kWh was expected in 2012: 45.0 hydro, 24.8 coal, 45.7 gas, 0.5 oil, and 4.65 import from China. A total of 3.1 GWe capacity was due to be added in 2012.

Demand is growing rapidly, resulting in rationing. Electricity demand growth – mostly in the south – has been 14% pa and is expected to be 15% pa to 2015, then slowing to 2020, though other figures suggest 10% pa. A 500 kV grid runs the length of the country and some 95% of the rural population has access to electricity.

Projections of power demand (base scenario) in 2011 were:

30.8 GWe, 194 TWh in 2015 (33% hydro, 35.5% coal),
52.0 GWe, 320 TWh in 2020 (26% hydro, 46% coal, 17% gas, 1.5% nuclear),
77.0 GWe, 490 TWh in 2025 (21% hydro, 46% coal, 16% gas, 6% nuclear),
110.2 GWe, 695 TWh in 2030 (16% hydro, 56% coal, 11% gas, 8% nuclear – with nuclear share then increasing to 20-25% by 2050).

Nuclear power proposals

In the early 1980s two preliminary nuclear power studies were undertaken, followed by another which reported in 1995 that: "Around the year 2015, when electricity demand reaches more than 100 billion kWh, nuclear power should be introduced for satisfying the continuous growth in the country's electricity demand in that time and beyond". Current projections almost double this.

In February 2006 the government announced that a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant should be on line by 2020. This general target was confirmed in a nuclear power development plan approved by the government in August 2007, with the target being raised to a total of 8000 MWe nuclear by 2025. A general law on nuclear energy was passed in mid 2008, and a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework is being developed.

Since October 2008, two reactors total 2000 MWe have been planned at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province. A further 2000 MWe was planned at Vinh Hai nearby, followed by a further 6000 MWe by 2030. Both locations are based particularly on geological suitability on the coast. A high demand scenario would give 8000 MWe in 2025 and 15,000 MWe (10% of total) in 2030 at up to eight sites in five provinces. Four more units would be added to the first two sites, then six more at three or four central sites in provinces of Quang Ngai (Duc Thang or Duc Chanh), Binh Dinh (Hoai My) and Phu Yen (Xuan Phuong). These, plus Ky Xuan in the northern Ha Tinh province, remained proposals in mid-2011 and early in 2014.

Atomstroyexport, Westinghouse, EdF, Kepco, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) all expressed strong interest in supplying the first two twin-unit plants. Unconfirmed reports early in 2010 said that the Japanese government, with Tepco and others, offered an $11 billion contract, also that a consortium of Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Hitachi bid for the project. The plants will be state-owned under EVN, with no private equity.

Planned and Proposed Nuclear Power Reactors to 2030
Location Plant (province) Type MWe nominal Start construction Operation
Phuoc Dinh Ninh Thuan 1-1 VVER-1200/V-491 1200 2017 or 2018 2023
  Ninh Thuan 1-2 VVER-1200/V-491 1200 2018 or 2019 2024
  Ninh Thuan 1-3 VVER-1200/V-491 1200   ?
  Ninh Thuan 1-4 VVER-1200/V-491 1200   ?
Vinh Hai Ninh Thuan 2-1 AP1000 or Atmea1 ? 1100 Dec 2015, delayed 2024?
  Ninh Thuan 2-2 AP1000 or Atmea1 ? 1100 2016, delayed 2025?
  Ninh Thuan 2-3 AP1000 or Atmea1 ? 1100   ?
  Ninh Thuan 2-4 AP1000 or Atmea1 ? 1100   ?
Central   APR-1400? 1350   2028
Central   APR-1400? 1350   2029
Total planned (4)     4800    
 Total proposed by 2030     7100    

In July 2011 the government issued a master plan specifying Ninh Thuan 1&2 nuclear power plants with a total of eight 1000 MWe-class reactors, one coming on line each year 2020-27, then two more larger ones to 2029 at a central location. The Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT) is responsible for the actual projects, while the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST) supports the program, developing a master plan and regulation. 

In January 2014 the government said that nuclear power development would be delayed up to four years, due to continuing negotiations on technology and financing. EVN earlier reported that the IAEA had urged some delay to allow fuller preparation.

In February 2014 Doosan Heavy Industries Vietnam Ltd (Doosan Vina) received ASME certification to manufacture nuclear components, the first company in South East Asia to achieve this. The company was established in 2007.

Ninh Thuan 1: Phuoc Dinh (Russia)

The main focus is now on the initial 2000 MWe of the power plant at Phuoc Dinh in Ninh Thuan province. A pre-feasibility study for this carried out by the Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT) was approved by the National Assembly in November 2009, and a comprehensive feasibility study is following. In May 2010 the prime minister established the Ninh Thuan nuclear power project. The Ninh Thuan Project Management Board functions under EVN.

In October 2010 an intergovernmental agreement was signed for Atomstroyexport to build the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant, using two VVER-1000 reactors based on those at Tianwan in China. However, in October 2014 it was decided to use the later AES-2006 nuclear plants from Atomproekt with VVER-1200/V-491 reactors. It is to be constructed as a turnkey project. Rosatom has confirmed that Russia's Ministry of Finance is prepared to finance at least 85% of this first plant, to supply the fuel and take back the used fuel for the life of the plant, as is normal Russian policy for non-nuclear-weapons states. An agreement for up to $9 billion finance was signed in November 2011 with the Russian government's state export credit bureau, and a second agreement for $500 million loan covered the establishment of the Centre for Nuclear Energy Science & Technology (CNEST) jointly by Rosatom and MOST. This is central in Vietnam’s development plans. 

In 2014, 344 Vietnamese undergraduate and graduate students were studying in Russia, to prepare for the project, and 150 engineers were helping with the construction of Rostov nuclear plant in Russia. For international ventures, Rosatom arranges both university and in-company training for nationals.

The initial schedule was for construction start in 2014 and operation from 2020, but commencement has been delayed to 2017 or 2018.

Rosatom in 2012 helped establish a Nuclear Industry Information Centre (NIIC) at the Hanoi University of Science & Technology (HUST). This is based on others set up by Rosatom in 20 Russian cities and internationally (Turkey – 2, Dhaka, Hanoi). The Hanoi NIIC caters for 1600 visitors per month, 1300 of these being school students, and 90% being from outside Hanoi.  

Ninh Thuan 2: Vinh Hai (Japan) 

On the same day in October 2010 an intergovernmental agreement with Japan was signed for construction of a second nuclear power plant at Vinh Hai in Ninh Thuan province, with its two reactors to come on line in 2024-25 (since brought forward, but then reverted). The following month the government signed a further accord with Japan on this, and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), said that Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) and the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co. Ltd. (JINED), would work with EVN on the project, which will involve financing and insurance of up to 85% of the total cost. JINED is a consortium of Japan's METI, nine utilities (led by Chubu, Kansai & Tepco) and three manufacturers (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Hitachi). The intergovernmental agreement took effect from January 2012.

In February 2011 JAPC signed an agreement with EVN to advance the feasibility study, and in September it signed a contract with EVN to provide consulting services to help with site selection and an 18-month, $26 million feasibility study including technology selection with economic and financial analysis, funded by the Japanese government. The following day an agreement (MOU) was signed between EVN and JINED to progress the design, construction and operation of the plant. EVN listed six criteria to apply, including late-model reactors, stable supply of fuel, support for local industry and education of staff, and financial support. Japan has committed to train about 1000 staff for Ninh Thuan 2. 

Vinh Hai is on Cam Ranh Bay, about 20 km northeast of Phuoc Dinh. In October 2011 a less-formal arrangement for cooperation in construction was signed, and work on the infrastructure for construction was under way. JAPC’s feasibility study for EVN was completed in May 2013. A decision on technology is pending, though PWR appears likely, and Mitsubishi earlier said that if it is PWR then the reference plant would be Hokkaido’s Tomari 3, an 866 MWe unit. In July 2013 the parties agreed to "accelerate cooperation to specify the project," which would be a major step towards a contract.

The schedule for this is also delayed a few years from the original 2015 start of construction.

South Korea and other links

The Vietnam and South Korean presidents have approved a jointly-prepared plan on nuclear power plant construction, and agreed to "use the plan as a basis for future cooperation projects to be undertaken in accordance with agreement between the two countries." "The two sides took a special note of South Korea's proposals on developing a nuclear power plant in Vietnam based on South Korean technologies," according to a joint statement in November 2011. In March 2012 a nuclear cooperation agreement was signed to take this forward, with a one-year feasibility study on constructing a Korean plant. In June 2013 a joint preliminary feasibility study commenced “for nuclear plant development worth US$ 10 billion”, and both governments agreed to cooperate further on the development project.

As well as developing nuclear power plants in Vietnam, EVN expects to collaborate with CGNPC which is building the large Fangchenggang nuclear power plant just across the northern border.

A nuclear cooperation agreement was signed with Russia in 2002, and since 2006, others have been signed with France, China (in particular with CGNPC), South Korea, Japan, USA and Canada. In 2007 there was an agreement between the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) for cooperation and information exchange on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. A further nuclear agreement with the USA was signed in March 2010, then a full cooperation and commercial trade agreement was initialed in October 2013, approved in February and went before Congress in May 2014. It will then come into force after 90 days. In June 2010 the Japan Atomic Energy Agency signed an agreement with the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety & Control (VARANS) for infrastructure development for safeguards and nuclear security in respect of nuclear nonproliferation. 

Uranium and Fuel cycle

The Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment’s Department of Geology & Minerals is undertaking evaluation of a uranium deposit in Quang Nam province which is believed to have about 7000 tU in 0.05% ore.  Canadian company NWT Uranium Corp has been asked to help assess prospects.

Plans call for importing all the fuel required for 14 reactors totalling 10.7 GWe. The 2010 agreement with USA expressed Vietnam’s intent to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel supplies and not to pursue domestic enrichment capabilities.

For the first two reactors, Russia's policy for building nuclear power plants in non-nuclear weapons states is to deliver on a turnkey basis, including supply of all fuel and repatriation of used fuel for the life of the plant. The fuel is to be reprocessed in Russia and the separated wastes returned to the client country eventually.

Research and development

Rosatom is working with MOST to establish the Centre for Nuclear Energy Science & Technology (CNEST) under VINATOM, based in Hanoi but having facilities in both south and north. An early project is to build a new 15 MW research reactor for operation from October 2018, though the site is not yet decided. It will be used for training staff for the nuclear power program, and access will be offered to other Southeast Asian countries.

An early nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia relates principally to Vietnam's 500 kW Da Lat research reactor, built in 1980, commissioned 1984. This replaced an earlier US Triga MkII reactor which started in 1963 but was dismantled by the USA in the early 1970s. In 2007 the USA helped convert the Da Lat reactor in Lam Dong province to use low-enriched fuel. It is run by VINATOM and will come under CNEST. It is 300 km north of Ho Chi Minh.

The Dong Nai Research Centre is in the south at Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon), and will assume more importance under CNEST as the power program gets under way.

The Institute of Nuclear Technology is in the north, and in connection with Hanoi University a new site may be also established there.

Organisation and regulation

Vietnam's new Atomic Energy Law was passed in June 2008 and came into effect early in 2009. Under this, a national nuclear safety commission responsible to the Prime Minister for safety and licensing was established in July 2010. The law is being revised by 2013 to make it more fit for purpose, particularly integrating regulatory aspects.

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission/ Agency was established in 1976 and is under the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST). A national steering committee with the role of Implementing Organisation, and including the representatives of the different ministries and governmental organizations, was established in May 2010 by the Prime Minister. 

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VINATOM) is part of MOST, and responsible for R&D, technical support, personnel training and technical services including the Da Lat research reactor.

The Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety & Control (VARANS) is the regulator, also part of MOST. In June 2008 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and VARANS signed a cooperation agreement to share technical information on nuclear energy as well as exchanging information about regulations, environmental impact and safety of nuclear sites. This will be the main formative influence on VARANS, though it is also actively cooperating with NISA (Japan) and Rostechnadzor (Russia), which will shape the regulatory arrangements for the first plant. By January 2012 VARANS had 90 staff (up from 8 in Aug 2005), including 11 PhD, 17 MSc.

Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) will be the company responsible for building and operating the plants, and will be the sole investor for the first two plants (each nominally 2x1000 MWe). The estimated $11 billion for these was to be financed with up to 25% EVN equity and the balance borrowed from countries supplying the technology. EVN considers that with the average rate of GDP development at about 7-8% per year it believes that financing should not be an insuperable problem. EVN is under the Department of Energy within the Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT). The Ninh Thuan Project Management Board is under EVN.

In May 2013 the prime minister announced the establishment of a new National Council for Atomic Energy Development & Application which is to identify strategies and priorities and advise the government. It will also coordinate ministries, agencies, governmental bodies and localities in developing nuclear energy and "realizing" nuclear power programs. It will also take on a role in international nuclear cooperation activities with organizations and individual countries.

Non-Proliferation

Vietnam's safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the NPT entered force in 1990 and it has signed but not ratified the Additional Protocol.

Sources

Le, Doan Phac, 2011, Vietnam’s Nuclear Power Development Plan: Challenges and Preparation Work for the First Nuclear Power Projects, INPRO SMR Forum Oct 2011.
http://news.gov.vn, notably
http://news.gov.vn/Home/Council-for-atomic-energy-development-set-up/20135/17804.vgp

Nagibina, E, Workforce Planning for Nuclear Power Programs of Rosatom Partner Countries, Forum of Nuclear Industry Suppliers ATOMEX Asia 2014 held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in November 2014