Skip to main content

Lost in Translation: Vietnam Edition

vietnam_017 One of the dangers of snooping around the internet for interesting stories is that we have to hope the reporting is accurate. That's tough, because journalistic standards differ between countries and the press elsewhere often has a different role in society than what we're used to. Usually, the news sources we use are pretty reliable, but not always. If the initial story doesn't really pass the smell test or we can't confirm it, we just drop the story. (Sometimes, the smell can be pretty raw.)

For example:

Vietnam is set to build their first nuclear plants and have them running by 2020. Viet-Nam only began talking about nuclear energy in the last couple of years, so this seems an oddly premature announcement.

Well, we're not the only doubting Thomas':

Prof. Dr Tran Dinh Long, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Electricity Power Association, warned that building a nuclear power plant would require strict technical demands.
“It is not as easy as building a shoe-making factory. We cannot affirm that engineers who have studied for five years will be able to build a nuclear power plant. That’s why scientists must be very careful in selecting technology, equipment and suppliers.”

Or how about:

Vietnam has yet to even choose what technologies will be used for its first nuclear power plant.

Yet here's what they plan to do (according to the same story):

The final plan outlines building a plant on two sites, with four reactors (with a total capacity of 4000 MW), using two different technology models. [whenever they choose them, that is.]

Common sense seems to have evaded this story, yet, even coming from Iran, we're not sure the goal was to deceive.

---

So we looked around for some reports on this development and  found a few from Asian news sources. This one, from Malaysia, suggests that the Vietnamese are not moving quite as quickly as all that:

Vietnam is ready to make a decision to establish a nuclear power programme, following careful research, said Head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute Vuong Huu Tan.

Vietnam news agency (VNA) reported that at a workshop on nuclear power, which took place in Hanoi on Friday, Tan affirmed that developing infrastructural facilities for a nuclear power programme needs to undergo three stages and that actually making the decision is the very first step.

Well, that seems more sensible.

But then there's this, from Thailand:

Vietnam is capable of operating nuclear power plants, and the plan to run its first nuclear reactor in 2020 is of great significance in the situation of power shortage.

A bit too up-with-Vietnam for our taste.

---

So, we don't know. Consider this one a work in progress. We'll see what IAEA has to say and look for some more pickup in the press. Right now, we're a little lost in translation.

Whenever we see pictures of Vietnam, we're always struck by how vibrantly green it is. It's like Asia's Ireland.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I am a Nuclear Engineer and went to Vietnam on a technical mission earlier this year. I met with the nuclear regulatory body in Hanoi (Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control - VARANSAC) as well as the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC).

Both organisations are keen to get moving on nuclear, but like many, must first develop their human resources. But this task is well underway. For example, I was in one meeting with maybe 20 Vietnamese technical staff. Of this group maybe two were the classic, silver haired nuclear experts. All the rest were quite young - definitely under 30. These younger engineers and scientists were very sharp academically, but lack the practical experience in projects / operation. They are looking hard to gain that experience through collaborative endeavours around the world (and they certainly are not alone in that effort - especially in Asia).

I have no doubt the Vietnamese are very serious about nuclear power.
Anonymous said…
I can second this. There has been high level exchanges with China on this already. The Vietnamese have already started to set up the regulatory/safety infrastructure as well as the R&D.

A lot of people don't know this but there has been a working R&D reactor in southern Vietnam, even as their civil war raged around it.

The Vietnamese are going s-l-o-w and that means they are v-e-r-y serious. You don't see, like in S. Africa, plans for "40 GWs" of atomic energy. No, you see plans to for basically two plants, both located in northern Vietnam. This makes sense. The Vietnamese will also work with anyone on this, *especially* the United States and China, their most natural allies in developing fission energy.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…