Vietnam braces for Chinese nuclear plant

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Vietnam is planning preventative measures to deal with nuclear concerns as China has recently approved the construction of a nuclear power plant some 60 kilometers from the northern province of Quang Ninh.


Vuong Huu Tan, chief of Vietnam's Atomic Energy Commission, told Thanh Nien that they have advised the government to set up a network of observation stations along the border to monitor the potential impact of the Fangchenggang plant in Guangxi Province.


If a leak at Fangchenggang plant were to coincide with a North-east monsoon blowing at 20-25 kilometers per hour, Hanoi would be affected by radioactivity 10 hours later, warned Nguyen Dinh Hoe of Vietnam's Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE).


On July 15, China's National Development and Reform Commission approved the construction of first phase of the plant.  Fangchenggang's designs include six 1000 megawatt pressurized water reactor units, People's Daily Online reported early this week.


Construction will commence late this month, according to the reports.  The plant's first two units are slated to go online in 2015 and 2016, the news source said.


In an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen Xuan Long, vice director of Quang Ninh Department of Sciences and Technology, said his department is preparing an action plan detailing assessment and remediation effects in the event of a radioactive leak in China.  Long anticipates the report will be ready next year's third quarter.


The study is being conducted by the Center of Technical Assistance for Radiation Safety and Emergency Response under the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (VARNS) as requested by Quang Ninh's authorities, Long said.


According to Long, the study, which was approved last month, was initiated partly because the border province is vulnerable to the effects of potential safety failures at Chinese plants.


Long's department, meanwhile, will reccommend the installation of more equipment to measure radiation concentration along the Mong Cai Border gate, the official said.


So far Long and his team has completed a database of background radiation which is constantly present in the environment and emitted from a variety of natural and artificial sources at tourist resorts and residential areas along the national way between Mong Cai and Dong Trieu District.


The database will serve as the basis to detect abnormal increases in the areas' radiation concentration, he said.


According to Hoe of the VACNE, local agencies are concerned about the process the Chinese will use to build the plant, their capacity of operate it, and the method they'll use to treat and control waste.


The likelihood of facing any dire scenarios is very low, Hoe said.

"I think the two countries need to negotiate how to provide each other with related information in the most proper way," he said.


Nguyen Nhi Dien, head of Dalat Nuclear Research Institute in the central highlands province of Lam Dong agreed.Thanks to advanced technologies, the chances of safety problems are very low, Dien said.


China will have to follow international safety regulations, not act on its own, pointed out Ta Van Huong, head of the Department of Energy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

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