White House Approves Civilian Nuclear Pact With Vietnam

On Monday, the president approved a nuclear cooperation agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, opening a new market to U.S. vendors like Westinghouse as the Southeast Asian nation plans several nuclear plants.

Conceptual drawing of Ninh Thuan 1. Source: Vietnam-Russia Joint Venture BankThe president's approval of the deal negotiated in October will allow the State Department to finalize the agreement, unless Congress passes a law prohibiting it from taking effect. As with civilian nuclear agreements with other countries, it includes requirements that Vietnam develop the technology solely for peaceful purposes.

While Vietnam does not currently operate any power reactors, it has negotiated with companies in Russia and Japan to build four units in the next 10 to 15 years, with an additional six reactors under consideration. According to the World Nuclear Association, Vietnam signed an agreement in 2010 with Russia's Atomstroyexport to build two AES-91 reactors at Ninh Thuan 1. The following year, Russia agreed to finance up to $9 billion of the project, which includes fuel delivery and removal. At the same time, Vietnam reached similar agreements with Japan and a consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Hitachi for a second plant in Ninh Thuan province.

France, China, South Korea and Canada have also signed nuclear cooperation agreements with Vietnam, and the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration has worked with the country under more limited agreements since 2007.

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