The National Assembly on Thursday approved with a majority of nearly 80 percent plans to build nuclear power plants in the south central Ninh Thuan Province.
With 77.48 percent of deputies voting for the project, work on the Ninh Thuan 1 atomic power plant in Phuoc Dinh Commune of Thuan Nam District will start in 2014 and is expected to become operational in 2020.
The NA has not decided the time frame for the Ninh Thuan 2 plant in Vinh Hai Commune, Ninh Hai District.
Deputy Nguyen Minh Thuyet who has been critical of the projects described the debate in the parliament as "lively" with some deputies preferring the idea of building just one power station, rather than the plan finally approved for four reactors at two sites, the AFP reported.
Under the approved plan, the plants will apply innovated light-weight water blowers and use latest ovens that have been checked for safety and efficiency that are expected to produce around 4,000 megawatts of electricity a day.
The estimated the cost for the project is VND200 trillion (US$11 billion).
Thuyet said the project has supporters as there are fears the country will suffer energy shortages in future. Vietnam's electricity needs are growing by an estimated 15 percent annually on average. Heavy industry, such as the construction sector, is an especially big energy consumer.
Yet he said others have objected that the country lacks workers qualified to operate the plants, that legislation is not adequately developed and that there are holes in the planned security guarantees. There are also objections on environmental grounds as Ninh Thuan is home to a nature reserve known for sea turtles.
"Vietnam is not yet ready" for a project that carries "significant risks" and for which "the economic rationale is weak," Thuyet told AFP.
Deputies at the session also agreed on the plan to build the Lai Chau hydropower plant in Nam Hang Commune, Muong Te District, in the northern mountainous province of Lai Chau at a projected cost of VND32.6 trillion (S1.8 billion).
The plant on the Da River will start being built in late 2010 and generate power from 2016, a year before the whole plant is finished.
The Lai Chau plant project was set up in the second quarter of last year.