Inner Sanctum (13-12-2009) Nuclear power opens doors, gets respect Although the project will be challenging, Prof Pham Duy Hien explains how nuclear power will help supply efficient energy to the country and improve Viet Nam s international standing, M

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VietNam News English - 60 month(s) ago 10 readings

Inner Sanctum
(13-12-2009)
Nuclear power opens doors, gets respect
Although the project will be challenging, Prof Pham Duy Hien explains how nuclear power will help supply efficient energy to the country and improve Viet Nam s international standing, M

Until now, only 31 countries and territories in the world have built nuclear power plants. Eight nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 16,000MW are expected to help Viet Nam join the 15 leading countries in the field of nuclear power. Everybody knows the respect a country receives once it owns nuclear power.

Viet Nam currently lacks sufficient electricity. The nuclear reactors will guarantee electricity for people and production.

The report submitted to the National Assembly estimated that building the first four reactors in 2022 will cost US$11 billion. That s an acceptable price in comparison with what the nuclear reactors will bring.

I have to admit that building nuclear reactors is not as easy as the report presented. It requires advanced technology which we have to master. It s meaningless if we just own nuclear energy but cannot master it.

We need nuclear energy and 2025 is the key milestone in the country s industrialisation and modernisation. However, we shouldn t consider it as a fixed plan that must be carried out at any price if the conditions are not suitable.

First, I want to mention energy security. We won t make any parts for the reactors, but instead will buy them from foreign countries and hire foreign specialists for the assembly. Nuclear power will be a key energy in the future. Help from foreigners is valuable and necessary but Vietnamese people should be aware of all the technology for obvious security reasons.

Second, nuclear reactors create radioactive waste. Burned fuel rods are especially dangerous and difficult to treat. After being used, they are steeped in water for decades to disintegrate some of the radioactivity. Then they will be brought to provider for treatment. Uranium in these bars can exist for thousands of years and remains toxic for many generations.

Can we estimate how much radioactivity will leak from the eight nuclear reactors? Who dares to guarantee that toxic products will be protected from natural disasters and carelessness?

The State should hear different opinions from the people and scientists, including opponents, and investigate the possible risks of nuclear energy. Comparing the experience of other countries is also a good way to prepare for a Vietnamese nuclear industry.

Whether nuclear electricity is safe or not depends on its managers. Only Vietnamese specialists have the right to decide Vietnamese issues. Foreign help is necessary but only in certain ways. We can train nuclear specialists by "learning by doing" like other countries. The staff can gain experience through real situations.

The nuclear reactor programme can begin as soon as the National Assembly passes a nuclear law, and national standards on nuclear quality and technological regulations on safety are drawn up. We have to prevent anyone from taking advantage of nuclear power for self-profit.

The Government should create an organisation to rehearse and react in the case of nuclear accidents. A compensation fund in case of accidents should be set up to calm people s nerves.

I had the chance to do post-graduate study in Russia in 1959 while I was studying astronomy. I was 22. In Russia, I decided to study nuclear atomics.

I was attracted by the success of Russian science and technology. Russia built its first nuclear plant in 1954 and launched the first satellite in 1957.

When I had the right to choose, I selected the most modern science without thinking how I would apply the knowledge in my own country. I didn t think of unemployment. I just dreamed and took full advantage of the opportunity to bring the dream come true.

I returned to Viet Nam in 1963, continued working and studying then became director of Institute for Nuclear Research in the Central Highlands city of Da Lat in 1977. That was the first step in bringing nuclear energy to Viet Nam. I don t regret anything. I have worked for international nuclear organisations to earn more experience and knowledge. Actually, over nearly 50 years, I haven t stopped learning. I have also done research in other fields but I have never given up my interest in nuclear energy. VNS

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