Vietnam resort town concerned nuclear reactor could hit tourism

Thanh Nien News

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The Da Lat Nuclear Research Center in Lam Dong Province. Lam Dong authorities have proposed that a new nuclear reactor planned for the resort town of Da Lat be built at least 20 kilometers outside town instead. Photo by Lam Vien
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh has asked central authorities to consider Lam Dong Province’s proposal to relocate the site of a future nuclear reactor outside the resort town of Da Lat following years of protest by local agencies.
The proposal by Lam Dong authoties is reasonable and would “make people feel safe in a developing resort town,” he said.
Plans for the construction of a nuclear reactor in Da Lat have been controversial since they were announced in 2012.
The National Atomic Energy Institute currently plans to build the new reactor – 30 times larger than Da Lat’s current reactor – and a new “nuclear center” near the Da Lat Nuclear Research Center, which is home to the old reactor inside the city limits of Da Lat.
Since the central government announced the plan in 2012, the province has repeatedly asked that the location of the newer, larger reactor be moved to a different location 27 kilometers from Da Lat on Road 723 connecting the town to Nha Trang.
Opponents began making more noise again this week after a public ceremony made clear that authorities have made no changes – and seemingly no intention to make changes – to the initial plan so far.
Second nuclear center in resort town
Vyacheslav Pershukov, deputy general director of the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation (Rosatom) for research and engineering, said the company plans to build the center under an agreement between the Vietnam and Russia.
The center will include a nuclear reactor with a capacity of 15MW, he said at a ceremony to grant company prizes to Vietnam’s outstanding nuclear workers in Lam Dong on March 18.
Russia will provide US$500 million in aid to build the center in Da Lat and a theory research establishment in Hanoi. These facilities will help train personnel for Vietnam’s nuclear power projects, he said.
The center in Da Lat is scheduled to break ground in 2015 and complete in 2020.
According to the National Atomic Energy Institute, the new center is expected to train personnel for Vietnam’s nuclear power plants, research applied nuclear energy in industrial production, biotechnology and for medical purposes.
Vietnam is free from highly enriched uranium and the country has committed to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes only.
While experts have maintained that the planned location in Da Lat will ensure both safety and an advantageous human resource supply, local authorities are concerned that it will have a bad impact on the resort town.
At a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh on March 25, Lam Dong authorities officially proposed not building the nuclear center in Da Lat.
Huynh Duc Hoa, chief of the provincial Party unit, said the center should be built at least 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) outside the town.
“We are not opposing the central government’s decision. But I think the high-capacity reactor will spoil a zoning plan for Da Lat that the Prime Minister signed in 2002,” he was quoted by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper as saying.
“We have prepared everything stably under this plan,” he said, adding that local residents do not want to have the new nuclear reactor in town.
Nguyen Nhi Dien, deputy director of the National Atomic Energy Center, said besides fearing the negative impacts on the zoning plan, Lam Dong authorities are concerned that the new reactor will affect Da Lat tourism.
Personnel problem
To maintain the safety of the new reactor, experts argue the center should be built in Da Lat because it would be easier to attract high-quality human resources to the town than to a remote location outside it.
Dien said if the new center is built outside Da Lat, it will be difficult to attract personnel, which has been a major problem in the field.
“It is difficult to attract skilled people to Da Lat. It will be infeasible if we send them away from the town,” he said.
Nguyen Mong Sinh, former deputy director of Da Lat Nuclear Research Institute, said the sub-tropical climate and stable geology makes Da Lat a suitable place for the operation of the Russian nuclear reactor.
He also said it would be difficult to recruit 300 experienced engineers for the new center if it is built far from Da Lat.
Human resources remain a concern as Vietnam seeks to develop nuclear power.
According to a governmental plan on developing nuclear energy, Vietnam is expected to have 13 nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 15,000 MW by 2030, supplying ten percent of the country’s electricity demand.

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