A door has been opened for foreign companies to enter Vietnam's infant nuclear power industry with the Government announcing a series of nuclear power plants to be built before 2030. Under Decision 906/QD-TTg ("Decision 906") signed on 17 June 2010 by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approving the master planning orientation for development of nuclear power in Vietnam for the period up to 2030, Vietnam will build 14 nuclear power reactors with a total capacity of around 15,000-16,000 megawatts, accounting for 10% of the country's total electricity capacity. The plants will be built at 8 locations in Central Vietnam and construction of the first plant is scheduled to start in 2015. This first plant is expected to commence operations by 2020.

Nuclear plants planned on a 20-year timeline for peaceful purposes

Decision 906 makes it clear that nuclear industry will be developed for peaceful purposes and based on modern, verified technology to ensure the safety of both people and the environment. Also, it is Vietnam's policy to promote international cooperation to attract investment and transfer of nuclear power technology.

Decision 906 sets out three general objectives for nuclear power generation in the next 20 years: (i) to develop the industry and ensure safety and efficient use of power plants, (ii) to increase participation by domestic industries in implementation of power plant projects, and (iii) to obtain self-reliance in design, manufacture, construction and installation, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants.

To this effect, nuclear power plants will be constructed at selected locations during each phase, consistent with the specific conditions and socio-economic developmental orientation of each such location, thereby contributing to the socio-economic development of both the locality and the region.

Under Decision 906, approval of the first nuclear power plant is to be completed by 2015. The first plant is then expected to be built and commissioned by 2020, as is commencement of construction of the second plant. The construction schedule set for the period between 2020 and 2030 is even more ambitious: an additional 12 nuclear reactors will become operational in Vietnam.

All in all, the power produced by these nuclear power plants is set to reach 15,000-16,000 MW (about 10% of the total power supply for Vietnam) by 2030.

Decision 906 encourages participation by local companies in the provision of materials and equipment, construction and installation and supervision and inspection, with a specific target of 20-30% of contract requirements to be locally sourced up to 2020, increasing to 30-40% in the 2020-2030 period.

For further details on this master plan, see the Table on Objectives of Developing Nuclear Power.

Supporting policies and institutions

Decision 906 deals with formulation of policies for such sectors as training, localisation of fuel production from imported enriched uranium and localisation of manufacture of equipment, health issues and international cooperation. It also proposes the formation of a nuclear safety agency and the State Steering Committee for nuclear energy.

Developmental orientation for construction sites for nuclear power plants

The Government will formulate a master plan for eight sites for construction of plants in the provinces of Ninh Thuan, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Ha Tinh and Quang Ngai, with each site having four to six turbines.

Policies on development of nuclear power

  • Investment policy:
    • Electricity of Vietnam Group will be the investor for the first four turbines of the Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Project.
    • Capable domestic economic groups with sufficient experience to invest in the next turbines, or to enter into a joint venture for investing in such turbines, will be appointed.
  • Technology policy:
    • The policy is to select only modern, safe and tested technology so as to ensure economic effectiveness and to facilitate operation, maintenance, repair, training manpower and management, and with a view to gradually moving to local manufacture of equipment.
    • Turbine output: In the initial phase, turbines with approximately 1,000 MW output will be selected. For the post 2025 phase, consideration will be given to selecting turbines with greater output.
  • Policy on fuel for nuclear power plants:
    • Up until year 2030, fuel for Vietnamese plants will be imported.
    • Management of radioactive waste: Low and intermediate level radioactive waste released from nuclear power plants will be stored temporarily on-site at the plants; thereafter it can be transferred to a national waste dump for long-term storage. High level radioactive waste, basically fuel which has been burnt, will be temporarily stored at the plant in soaking tanks.
  • Localisation policy: The Prime Minister will approve a program for gradual localisation of manufacture of equipment for nuclear power plants.
  • National policy:
    • To confirm the policy on use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, and to study participation in international treaties relevant to development of nuclear power plants, consistent with the general international trend.
    • To promote cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with relevant groups within ASEAN, and to actively participate in activities of the Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia.
    • To promote coordination with countries with experience and potential in the nuclear power sector.

Responsibilities of ministries and localities

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is assigned with the following duties:

  • To monitor, activate, inspect and supervise implementation of investment in and construction of nuclear power plants in accordance with Decision 906, and the master plans on national development of electricity and socio-economic development of the country.
  • To monitor and promptly report the status of master planning and investment in the development of nuclear power plants, including any issues which arise, in order for the Prime Minister to consider them and amend the program as appropriate.
  • To take the initiative in coordinating with the Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Science and Technology to formulate a program on localisation in construction, design and manufacture of nuclear power plant equipment.

Other regulatory bodies include the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Defence and the authorities governing localities in which there are sites for construction of plants.

For inquiries related to this Legal Update, please contact:

Dao Nguyen (dao.nguyen@mayerbrown.com)

Kevin B Hawkins (kevin.hawkins@mayerbrown.com)

Thinh Dan (thinh.dan@mayerbrown.com)

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