HANOI, Vietnam, March 8 (UPI) -- Vietnam is pressing ahead with nuclear power, a government official said.
Addressing an international conference on nuclear power Thursday in Vietnam, Le Dinh Tien, deputy minister of the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology, maintained that nuclear power is an important power source worldwide, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reports.
His stance comes days before the first anniversary of Japan's earthquake and tsunami that crippled the country's Fukushima nuclear power plant.
After Fukushima, the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, countries worldwide have reassessed nuclear energy policies, with Germany and Switzerland opting to phase out nuclear power altogether.
"The consistent view of Vietnam is to utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in a responsible manner while ensuring safety and security," Tien, whose ministry is responsible for overseeing the country's nuclear power, said in January.
In 2010 Vietnam chose Russia's Rosatom to build its first nuclear plant in the central province of Ninh Thuan. Construction is to begin in 2014 and for it to be online by 2020.
By 2030, Vietnam aims to build 10 reactors and, by 2050, it hopes to generate enough nuclear power to account for 20-25 percent of its energy consumption.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says half of Vietnam's energy consumption comes from oil, with hydropower supplying about 20 percent of its power, coal about 18 percent and natural gas accounting for the remainder.
Speaking to The New York Times, Le Doan Phac, deputy director general of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, cited a shortage of conventional fuel supply sources, including imports, as the principal motivation for Vietnam's pursuit of nuclear power.
As for safety concerns post-Fukushima, Tien was quoted by The Vancouver Sun newspaper this week as saying that "information and assessments of the blasts at the Fukushima plant will act as a foundation to help Vietnam's relevant authorities develop appropriate nuclear power programs in the country."
Tien has said that Vietnam was addressing issues related to its nuclear power program, including developing sound nuclear infrastructure, establishing a technical support organization and enhancing international cooperation to ensure safety, security and nonproliferation.
But Hien Pham Duy, one of Vietnam's top nuclear scientists, was quoted in the Times report as saying that the government's nuclear power plans were based on a "lack of vigorous assessment of the inherent problems of nuclear power, especially those arising in less developed countries."