Senate Committee Passes Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with Vietnam

An agreement that could open trade between U.S. nuclear firms and Vietnam cleared a significant hurdle this week.

Ninh Thuan 1. Source: Vietnam-Russia Joint Venture BankThe Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday voted in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 36, which would establish a broad framework for cooperation between the two countries' civilian nuclear enterprises. Approval in the full Senate and House are not guaranteed, although the measure does have the support of the Obama administration. The State Department negotiated the agreement in October and the president approved it early this year.

While Vietnam does not currently operate any power reactors, the agreement is significant because it opens the door for U.S. companies to potentially take part in several new projects planned in the developing Southeast Asian nation. Vietnamese energy plans have called for as many as ten new reactors, according to the World  Nuclear Association. The first will be built under a 2010 construction and financing agreement with Russia that envisions two AES-91 reactors at Ninh Thuan. The country also reached a similar agreement with a Japanese consortium for two additional units nearby.

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