Vietnam lacks resources to build nuclear plant: minister

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Construction of Vietnam's first nuclear power plant is scheduled to begin in 2014, but Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan has said the country lacks the necessary resources for it, including human.

Vietnamnet quoted him as saying Thursday that the legal framework, finances, and personnel are inadequate.

"Vietnam is still a developing country, facing difficulties concerning financial resources. The nuclear power plant relies on official development assistance from other countries like Russia and Japan," Quan said at an international nuclear power conference in Hanoi.

Moreover, after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, some people voiced apprehension about the project, which raised doubts about its progress, he said.

Only when Vietnam can ensure complete safety would it start building the plant, he stressed.

Alexander Bychkov, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the conference that the IAEA would continue to support Vietnam's efforts to develop nuclear power, Vietnamnet reported.

He said the Fukushima disaster would not derail, only delay, the global growth of nuclear power due to its benefits, Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

But though Vietnam is determined to build nuclear plants, the country has many things to do and the main issue is to have regulations and human resources in place, Bychkov said.

James Lyons, director of the IAEA's Nuclear Installation Safety Division, said countries developing nuclear power need to establish and maintain an independent nuclear safety agency to oversee location selection, trial operation, official operation, and closure of nuclear plants.

If multiple agencies share the work, regulations on their cooperation, functions, and responsibilities are needed, he added.

Human matter

In response to media questions about Vietnam's slow preparation of human resources for the nuclear plant on the sidelines of the conference, Quan said the recruitment of people for overseas training had yet to create attraction because the incentives for students and people working in the field have yet to be made public.

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The recruitment criteria are stricter than for other fields, he revealed.

In the last three years 200 people have been sent to Russia for training and another 200-300 would be sent other countries, he said. 

The government would soon unveil the incentives, he said, admitting that scholarships and high salaries have to be the main attraction so that more students opt for it and talented workers would not quit.

The government plans to earmark VND2 trillion (US$94.38 million) for training human resources, while public utility Electricity of Vietnam would assign VND1 trillion for training technicians and workers for the plant's operation, he added.

"It is expected that by 2020 Vietnam will have enough human resources for the plant's operation," he said.

Asked about overseas Vietnamese scientists who want to work in the field, he said the government "welcomes" them.

The ministry is trying to create the best working environment to attract scientists, including building a nuclear science center at a cost of $500 million in collaboration with Russia, he said.

However, due to a lack of funds, the ministry plans to also seek international sponsorship to guarantee reasonable salaries for scientists, he added.

The first nuclear plant is scheduled to begin operation in 2020 in the central province of Ninh Thuan. Vietnam plans to build a total of 13 plants across the country in the next two decades with a total capacity of 16,000 MW.

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