HANOI, Vietnam, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Vietnam and Japan have signed an agreement for a feasibility study for a nuclear power plant in Vietnam.
Under the $26 million contract funded by the Japanese government, Japan Atomic Power Co. will conduct the study and provide consulting to Electricity of Viet Nam, known as EVN, on the preparation of necessary documentation for site approval for Vietnam's Ninh Thuan 2 nuclear plant, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The proposed facility in south-central Vietnam calls for two advanced light water reactors, each with a designed capacity of 1,000 megawatts.
EVN General Director Pham Le Thanh said Tokyo has invested $5.46 billion in EVN projects, Xinhua reports.
"This an important milestone, (that) shows Vietnam's determination to develop nuclear power plants, especially in the face of global economic difficulties and after the incident at Japan's Fukushima plant," Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Hoang Quoc Vuong said Wednesday at the signing ceremony.
Vietnam has chosen Russia's Rosatom to build its first nuclear plant, the 1,000 megawatt-Ninh Thuan 1, with construction scheduled to begin in 2014 for completion in 2020.
Vuong said Vietnam aims for nuclear power to account for 7 percent of the country's installed generation capacity by 2030. Vietnam's demand for electricity is growing at an estimated rate of 15 percent a year and the country faces frequent power outages and blackouts.
"We pledge to work hard to ensure the nuclear power development of Vietnam," Japan Atomic Power Co. President Yasuo Hamada said of the agreement, adding that his company will take into consideration the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.
But a nuclear expert warned that Ninh Thuan project could face safety concerns.
Because Vietnam's Nuclear Radiation Safety Bureau isn't a national body, it isn't capable of effectively supervising the construction and appraising the safety of nuclear power plants, Tran Dai Phuc, a senior Vietnamese-French nuclear expert told the Tien Phong newspaper.
Tran, who is training Vietnam's key nuclear engineers at the invitation of the Vietnamese government, pointed out that by 2020 Vietnam should have at least 500 people working in the nuclear safety sector whereas the bureau has a staff of 80 with inadequate experience.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says half of Vietnam's domestic 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.