Over the past few decades Vietnam has emerged as an important oil and natural gas producer in Southeast Asia. Vietnam has boosted exploration activities, allowed for greater foreign company investment and cooperation in the oil and gas sectors, and introduced market reforms to support the energy industry. These measures have helped to increase oil and gas production. Also, the country's rapid economic growth, industrialization, and export market expansion have spurred domestic energy consumption.[Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, August 2013]

Vietnam generates 40 percent of its power from hydropower plants. Oil and gas reserves deliver 31 percent of energy, but crude oil output has peaked. Under a government blueprint, coal is projected to cover over 56 percent of all electricity production capacities in Vietnam by 2030, making the country an important coal importer. [Source: Than Nieh, November 11, 2013]

Petroleum is the main source of commercial energy, followed by coal, which contributes about 25 percent of the country’s energy (excluding biomass). Vietnam’s oil reserves are in the range of 270–500 million tons. The World Bank cites the lower bound of the range. Oil production rose rapidly to 403,300 barrels per day in 2004, but output is believed to have peaked and is expected to decline gradually. Vietnam’s anthracite coal reserves are estimated at 3.7 billion tons. Coal production was almost 19 million tons in 2003, compared with 9.6 million tons in 1999. Vietnam’s potential natural gas reserves are 1.3 trillion cubic meters. In 2002 Vietnam brought ashore 2.26 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Hydroelectric power is another source of energy. In 2004 Vietnam began to build a nuclear power plant with Russian assistance. Crude oil is Vietnam’s leading export, totaling 17 million tons in 2002; in 2004 crude oil represented 22 percent of all export earnings. Petroleum exports are in the form of crude petroleum because Vietnam has a very limited refining capacity. Vietnam’s only operational refinery, a facility at Cat Hai near Ho Chi Minh City, has a capacity of only 800 barrels per day. Several consortia have abandoned commitments to finance a 130,000-barrel-per-day facility at Dung Quat in central Vietnam. Refined petroleum accounted for 10.2 percent of total imports in 2002. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Electricity in Vietnam

Vietnam produced 100.1 billion kWh gross in 2010 from 19.7 GWe of plant, giving per capita consumption of 1140 kWh/yr. In 2009, 33 percent of the country's capacity was hydro, 17 percent gas (CCGT), 12 percent coal, 6 percent oil - all under Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), and 33 percent was with IPP & BOT outside EVN. Electricity supply in 2010 was 38 percent from hydro, 33.6 percent gas and 18.5 percent coal. GDP growth in 2010 was 6.8 percent. Total 120.8 billion kWh was expected in 2012: 45.0 hydro, 24.8 coal, 45.7 gas, 0.5 oil, and 4.65 import from China. A total of 3.1 GWe capacity was due to be added in 2012. [Source: World Nuclear Association, May 2013 <+>]

Electricity from fossil fuels: 55 percent of total installed capacity (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 146; Electricity from nuclear fuels: 0 percent of total installed capacity (2012 est.). Electricity from hydroelectric plants: 45 percent of total installed capacity (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 47. Electricity from other renewable sources: 0.1 percent of total installed capacity (2012 est.): country comparison to the world: 91: [Source: CIA World Factbook **]

Electricity production: 117 billion kWh (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 32; Electricity consumption: 104 billion kWh (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 33: Electricity exports: 1.555 million kWh (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 86; Electricity imports: 2.7 billion kWh (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 46. Electricity installed generating capacity: 26.3 million kW (2012 est.), country comparison to the world: 30. **

In Vietnam rice stalks are used as fuel. Gasoline is often sold on the streets in old plastic 2-liter coke bottles. In recent years electricity has been introduced to many remote areas. Villagers have bought televisions and gadgets. Power outages common. Much of country doesn't have reliable electricity. Lack of World Bank loans was partly to blame for this in the past. Ho Chi Minh City gets much of its electricity from Hoa Binh Dam, almost a 1,000 miles to the north. Pipelines: condensate 28 km; condensate/gas 10 km; gas 216 km; refined products 206 kilometers (2010)

Increasing Demand for Electricity in Vietnam

Demand is growing rapidly, resulting in rationing. Electricity demand growth - mostly in the south - has been 14 percent pa and is expected to be 15 percent pa to 2015, then slowing to 2020, though other figures suggest 10 percent pa. A 500 kV grid runs the length of the country and some 95 percent of the rural population has access to electricity.

Electricity usage in Vietnam is increasing at a phenomenal rate. In the 1990s there were only one television per 31 people, one radio per 10 people, and one telephone per 544 people in Vietnam. Now cell phones and electronics are everywhere. The Los Angeles Times described Phan An, a 26-year-old freelance IT consultant who grew up with five siblings in Danang without electricity or running water. They took baths in flooded rice fields and read by oil lamp, sleeping with the rest of the family in a single room and walking three miles to school. Nowadays Phan sits at his computer listening to digital music files in a building on land that was a field a few years back. The two-room apartment he shares with a friend is stuffed with a fan, washing machine (equipped with "Fuzzy Logic 6.4"), flat-screen television, Sanyo refrigerator and electric guitar. [Source: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times, June 05, 2010]

David Fullbrook wrote in the Asia Times in 2006, “ Vietnam has few viable new energy options as economic planners grapple with how to fuel and sustain rapid economic growth. Electricity demand is currently doubling every five years, as thousands of new factories commence operations and rising spending power translates into millions of people for the first time buying electrical appliances such as air-conditioners, refrigerators and computers. [Source: David Fullbrook, Asia Times, November 11, 2006]

Projections of power demand (base scenario) in 2011 are: A) 30.8 GWe, 194 TWh in 2015 (33 percent hydro, 35.5 percent coal); B) 52.0 GWe, 320 TWh in 2020 (26 percent hydro, 46 percent coal, 17 percent gas, 1.5 percent nuclear); C) 77.0 GWe, 490 TWh in 2025 (21 percent hydro, 46 percent coal, 16 percent gas, 6 percent nuclear); D) 110.2 GWe, 695 TWh in 2030 (16 percent hydro, 56 percent coal, 11 percent gas, 8 percent nuclear - with nuclear share then increasing to 20-25 percent by 2050). [Source: World Nuclear Association, May 2013]

Blackouts Expose Vietnam's Thirst for Electricity

In 2007, AFP reported: “With a surging economy drawing interest from foreign investors, Vietnam is one of East Asia's success stories -- but at a rate outpacing the electricity supply needed to feed its growth. Planned but increasingly regular power cuts over the past month have left factories at a standstill, plunged homes into darkness and turned off traffic lights. Vietnam's power plants are struggling to meet the growing requirements of consumers and an economy that expanded more than eight percent last year.Such needs translate into an annual rise of more than 15 percent in the demand for electricity -- a rate that is expected to last until 2010. "Vietnam is a victim of its success," said Richard Spencer, a specialist in energy at the World Bank's Hanoi office. The situation "is typical of a country growing economically so fast." [Source: Agence France Presse, May 9, 2007 ***]

But Tony Foster, a partner in the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, said the shortage was "becoming a bit alarming to businesses because it's gradually growing. "It's not a problem that is going to go away in the short term. Demand is growing too fast for them." Communist Vietnam lacks power plants. The World Bank estimates it will have to double electricity production capacity to more than 25,400 megawatts by 2010. The country is currently heavily reliant on hydro-electric plants but that can be a risk in case of drought, experts say. Indeed, lack of water has been one of the factors behind the recent power cuts. The Red River, which flows through Hanoi, has fallen to its lowest level in a century, said Nguyen Lan Chau, the deputy director of the national weather forecasting body, and he predicted more difficult months ahead. Nearly 40 percent of Vietnam's power comes from hydro-electric production. There are gas reserves but they can be expensive and difficult to extract if dispersed, one foreign investor said. ***

“The government is planning greater use of coal but that is a pollutant and in any case the country lacks the necessary port infrastructure. Strengthening and diversifying production will take time and cost a lot of money. The central government estimates it will need three to four billion US dollars every year until 2010 to cope with the situation. The World Bank estimates state-run Vietnam Electricity (EVN) will only be able to meet 40 to 50 percent of the necessary investment, but international aid will still not be enough to fill the gap. So Vietnam is appealing to foreign investors. France's EDF, Sumitomo and Tepco of Japan and Britain's BP are already producing electricity here, while the likes of AES and China Southern Power Grid are reportedly in line too. But Foster cautioned that old hurdles remain. "It's very difficult to actually complete a deal," he said. "There are too many people who have an influence on a complex project." Negotiations can involve the central government, regional authorities, raw materials suppliers such as PetroVietnam and EVN for its distribution network. ***

Hanoi is trying to persuade consumers to save energy and is importing more and more electricity from big neighbour China. Anxious to keep growth on track, it wants to prevent a shortage of electricity becoming a drag on the economy.

Water Shortages, Plant Problems Mean Blackouts in Vietnam

In the 1990s there were power blackouts and brownouts caused by a drought that reduced the flow of water through power-generating dams. In 2007, Deutsche Presse Agentur reported: “Vietnam's electricity supply may fall well short of needs due to technical problems at a gas-fired power plant and a shortage of water for hydroelectric dams, an official. The country's electricity consumption is forecast to be 5.95 billion kilowatt hours per day for December, while the total supply, including electricity purchased from China, is only about 5.68 billion kilowatt hours per day, according to Mai Duy Thien of the national power distribution company, Electricity of Vietnam. [Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur, December 8, 2007 +=+]

"The gas-fired Phu My 3 and Phu My 2.2 plants are having technical problems, and have had to be unplugged from the national power grid," Thien said. The Phu My Power Complex in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau operates five plants with a combined capacity of 3,900 megawatts, accounting for some 40 percent of the national electric generating capacity. Reservoirs that feed hydroelectric plants are currently storing water for the dry season, which lasts from December to April, while water inflow is very low, especially in northern Vietnam, according to Thien. +=+

“Overall, the national power generation system is running some 1,600 megawatts below its designed capacity. "To ease the power shortage, we will operate thermoelectric plants using fuel oil and diesel oil at peak hours," Thien said. Vietnam, the second fastest-growing economy in Asia, often faces power shortages during the dry season. The country plans to invest up to $16 billion by 2025 to build eight nuclear reactors, with a total capacity of about 8,000 megawatts, to reduce its reliance on hydroelectricity and fossil fuels. The first nuclear power plant is expected to begin operating in 2020 in central Ninh Thuan province, 400 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. +=+

Crane Accident Cuts Power to One-third of Vietnam

In May 2013, Associated Press reported: “One mistake by a clumsy crane operator caused a 10-hour blackout over about a third of Vietnam, exposing the fragility of the nation's power grid. State electricity company EVN said in a statement that the blackout occurred after the crane operator knocked a tree down onto the main north-south high voltage power transmission line. The outage covered 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces. It was not clear how many people were affected, but the loss of power forced scores of garment and seafood factories to close, and traffic was snarled in major cities as traffic lights failed. State-owned newspaper Thanh Nien reported that the incident cost EVN $700,000 in lost revenue. [Source: Associated Press, May 23, 2013]

Vietnam's power generation sector needs modernizing, but low tariffs are making foreign investors wary about returns.

Dams in Vietnam

Vietnam generates 40 percent of its power from hydropower plants. The figure used to 70 percent. The Hoa Binh Dam on the Red River near Hanoi, alone, used to supply one quarter of Vietnam’s power. Ho Chi Minh City gets much of its electricity from Hoa Binh Dam, almost a 1,000 miles to the north. In the 1990s there were power blackouts and brownouts caused by a drought that reduced the flow of water through power-generating dams.

There are over 7,000 dams in Vietnam. Most are small or mid-size. Nguyen Pham Muoi wrote in the Wall Street Journal blog, “By the end of 2012, Vietnam had 260 hydropower plants with a combined capacity of 13,694 megawatts in operation. In addition, 211 plants with a total capacity of 6,713 megawatts were under construction. In May, the government of Vietnam scrapped plans to build 338 hydropower plants with a total generating capacity of 1,090 megawatts because the projects didn’t meet environmental standards. Since then, another 67 hydropower projects have been suspended or cancelled, Mr. Hai added. [Source: Nguyen Pham Muoi, Wall Street Journal blog, August 31, 2013]

Vietnam Worried About Dam Safety in Rainy Season

Nguyen Pham Muoi wrote in the Wall Street Journal blog, “The government of Vietnam has raised concerns about the safety of hundreds of dams for hydropower plants as the heavy rainy season prepares to enter its third month, with one official warning they could turn into “water bombs.” “The authorities must take steps to upgrade the infrastructure and increase safety of those dams, which could become ‘water bombs’ and threaten the life of millions of people residing in the low-land areas,” Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said at a government meeting held in Hanoi this past week to assess the situation of dams and reservoirs amid the stormy season. [Source: Nguyen Pham Muoi, Wall Street Journal blog, August 31, 2013 <>]

“At least 371 dams and lakes out of nearly 7,000 ones operated for the hydropower plants in the country are in danger of being damaged during the rainy months — generally between July and November– the government said in a statement. Most of the dams drawing the government’s concern are small and medium sized, meaning they contain less than 3 million cubic meters of water, or were built with dykes less than 15-meter high. There are 64 dams that have an individual capacity of more than 1 millions of cubic meters of water that the government has marked as “unsafe” in the next few months. <>

More than a dozen of hydropower plants have recently reported damages– including death, crop losses and houses collapsing– to the nearby communities. Vietnam is an agricultural economy, and its dams and lakes play an important role in storing water for irrigation. During the tropical rainy season between July and November, these facilities are often full of water, and thus, become more vulnerable to geographic shocks or earthquakes. <>

Vietnam Scraps Two Hydropower Dams on Environment Concerns

In September 2013, Thanh Nien reported: “The government has pulled the plug on two proposed hydropower plants to protect a world biosphere reserve. The order to call them off came from Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, who had received a report on the likely environmental impacts of Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6A dams on the Dong Nai Riverfrom the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The report said that the dams would destroy more than 327 hectares of forests, 128 hectares of them in the Cat Tien National Park northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. The dams would badly affect the Bau Sau (Crocodile Lake) wetlands inside the park and the flow of the Dong Nai River, it warned. [Source: Thanh Nien, September 30, 2013 ////]

According to the report, the two dams would have violated the Laws of Biodiversity and Heritage because the builder, Duc Long Gia Lai Group, failed to get an assessment done by relevant agencies. If the dams are built, Cat Tien National Park could lose its UNESCO world heritage recognition, it warned. Last June the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has conducted a thorough evaluation of the park, urged UNESCO not to accept the nomination of Cat Tien National Park for failing to meet World Heritage criteria. ////

Vu Ngoc Long, who heads the HCMC-based Southern Institute of Ecology, said the plans for the two dams had a major bearing on the IUCN's recommendation. The park is home to around 1,700 species of rare plants and more than 700 animals and birds, many endangered. It has been recognized as a world biosphere reserve by UN ////

Son La Dam: Vietnam’s $2 Billion Hydroelectric Project

The Son La Dam is a concrete gravity dam on the Black River in Ít Ong Muo`ng La District in Son La Province, Vietnam. The largest hydroelectric power station in Southeast Asia, it is 138 metres (453 ft) high and 90 metres (300 ft) wide.Its length is over 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). Designed by Hydroproject of Russia, the power plant consists of six turbines with generating capacity of 400 MW each. The dam has a total capacity of 2,400 MW with an expected annual generation of 10,246 GWh. The total cost of the project was US$2 billion. The plant is owned by Electricity of Vietnam. [Source: Wikipedia +]

The Son La project was proposed in 1970s. Several studies were carried out, including by the Moscow Institute of Hydroelectric and Industry, Electricity and Power Distribution Company (Japan), Designing Research and Production Shareholding Company (Moscow) and SWECO (Sweden). In May 2000, the National Assembly of Vietnam postponed the decision due to lack of information on relocation and compensation plans and for feasibility studies for a scaled-down version of the dam. The project was approved by the National Assembly in December 2002. +

Construction of the dam began in December 2005. In December 2010, the first turbine was connected to the power grid. It was officially put into operation on 7 January 2011.The second turbine was put to operation on 10 May 2011, the third turbine on 20 October 2011, the fourth turbine on 22 December 2011, the fifth turbine on 30 April 2012, and the sixth turbine on 26 September 2012. The project was completed on 20 December 2012. +

David Fullbrook wrote in the Asia Times in 2006, “The dam is designed to produce 3,600 megawatts of electricity, more power than any other dam in Southeast Asia, and equivalent to 10 percent of Vietnam's current electricity demand. Son La, in the country's remote and rugged northwest region, is Vietnam's less ambitious answer to China's Three Gorges Dam, currently the world's biggest hydropower project. [Source: David Fullbrook, Asia Times, November 11, 2006]

Controversy Over the Son La Dam

The reservoir of the Son La dam project required displacement of more than 91,000 ethnic minority people, the largest resettlement in Vietnam's history. Two pilot resettlement sites were established in 2003, and resettlement started in 2005. Critics also charge the dam is situated in an earthquake prone area and will harm the environment.

David Fullbrook wrote in the Asia Times, “A government scheme to compensate more than 100,000 people to be uprooted by construction of what promises to be Southeast Asia's largest hydropower dam has left them high and dry in desolate areas that lack arable land for cultivation. “Vietnam's most fertile land along rivers is already heavily occupied, particularly in the country's northwest where the Son La Dam is being built. That's pushing new relocation villages on to steep mountainous terrain, where the land surrounding the relocation areas is often hotly contested by ethnic-minority highlanders with deep ancestral ties to the land. The government, of course, sees things differently. The state-run mouthpiece Vietnam Economic News reported in February, "In order to increase the nation's electricity supply, these families willingly move to another area to settle down. Everything has gone fairly smoothly until now. People of the different ethnic groups always very willingly receive relocated people, and enthusiastically help the strangers settle in."[Source: David Fullbrook, Asia Times, November 11, 2006 <*>]

“The dam is expected to submerge 24,000 hectares of land, including 8,000 hectares of agriculture land and another 3,000 of rich forested areas, and adversely affect peoples in Son La, Lai Chau and Dien Bien provinces. Turfing peasants out of their ancestral lands with derisory compensation - assuming it's not first pilfered or skimmed by venal local officials - is an increasing cause of conflict between the people and state. And those confrontations are gradually increasing in Vietnam, though they have not yet reached the proportions now common in China. Vietnam's Son La Dam at the outset aimed to set a new, more equitable standard for relocation and provide a transferable blueprint for other big development projects that would push people from their homes. Vietnamese officials, taking note of lawmakers' worries and villagers' complaints, drew up a program that the country's association of scientists commended for its - on paper at least - efforts to ensure villagers' livelihoods in new villages through more space, schools and clinics. But now, in practice, they say that plan is failing because of poor implementation, incompetence and corruption. It is a situation compounded by legal knots left by rapidly changing regulations, especially concerning land use and ownership. That is not an unusual outcome either in Vietnam or elsewhere in developing Asia, because local officials often lack the skill, will or resources to implement central government policies effectively. <*>

“Families have been moved, breaking up communities and extended families, to resettlement villages up mountains and away from the river. The new homes are not the main issue; rather it's the lack of arable land and meager compensation that are proving the main cause of despair, the scientists say. It's a plight made worse because most relocated villagers haven't a clue about growing crops in the highlands' less temperate climate and tougher soil. The scientists say training programs for higher-altitude agriculture and supplies of more durable seeds and cuttings are urgently needed. Those who used their savings or borrowed heavily to invest in boats and fishing nets along the Da River have literally been left high and dry. <*>

In March 2006, AFP reported: “Some 300 ethnic minority people have returned to their former village area after being resettled last year to make way for Vietnam's largest dam project, a local official said. About 100 families from the Thai and other minority groups have returned to their mountainous ancestral home that will be the site of the Son La hydropower plant, said Lo Mai Kien, the local chief resettlement official. "It's difficult for them to adapt to the new environment, where there is not much space for the raising of buffalos and cows," said Kien, adding that cattle sacrifices played a key ceremonial role for the ethnic group. "Their habits have to change," he told AFP. The state-run Lao Dong daily quoted one villager, Quang Phu Khu, as saying "there is no water for agricultural crops in the new areas, making our lives more difficult." However, Kien said the government would encourage the 100 families to return to the resettlement area and grant them more space for their cattle. "It is difficult, but we will try our best and believe that the people will be happy." [Source: Agence France Presse, March 31, 2006]

Swedish-Funded Dams in Vietnam Ruin Cambodian Villages

Theis Broegger of wrote: “Cambodian villagers are condemning Vietnam’s plans to build more dams on its side of the border, because the already existing dams are causing great destruction in populated areas. The dams are funded by Sweden and Norway. Enough is enough. That was the message delivered by ten agitated community representatives from the north-eastern Cambodian province of Stung Treng during a meeting with some of the officials responsible for Vietnam’s plans to construct additional dams on the Vietnamese side of the border. [Source: Theis Broegger,, January 21, 2007 ><]

The Cambodian activists claim this was the first time in more than a decade of Scandinavian aid-backed hydro-planning along rivers shared by Vietnam and Cambodia that the Scandinavian consultants and the Vietnam Electricity (EVN) have agreed to meet with affected residents and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). ''We have no hope that Vietnam will give any compensation to the Cambodian people affected by their dams,'' one of the Cambodian community representatives, Chao Chantha, 46, told News Mekong after the meeting. ><

"Since 2004, we have been experiencing unnatural floods two to three times a year. We are aware that the floods are caused by hydroelectric dams built upstream in Vietnam,'' Chao Chantha explained, referring to the construction activity that started in 2003 for a series of dams in the Srepok river basin. In Chao Chantha’s village in Banmei, 83 families are already negatively affected by dams across the Srepok that flows into Cambodia. For two years, releases of water from the dams have unleashed floods that caused the rice plants to rot. Their livelihoods affected, most residents are being forced to go to other provinces and find work in the garment or construction industries. A few families have decided to stick it out, but their crops are ruined by repeated flooding. In the Rattanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces, an estimated total of 11,000 villagers living along the Srepok river basin have been facing negative impacts from hydropower development of the river basin. While the affected villagers are still awaiting compensation, many fear that the new dam projects – which will include four dams – will bring the same environmental impact. ><

Representatives of the Srepok communities called for a suspension of dam construction, compensation from dam builders, and a stop to the EIA processes and to financing of dam projects that had no support from the local population.The EVN and its Scandinavian partners have earlier promised to halt the dam construction if evidence would prove that it would have a dangerous impact on the environment as well as populated areas. However, a representative from the EVN claims that the flooding and irregular living conditions experienced by the villages in the provinces of Rattanakkiri and Stung have not been caused by the dam constructions, but by severe weather conditions. ><

Vietnam Plans Mekong Mega-Dam in Laos

In December 2007, AFP reported: “Energy-hungry Vietnam is planning to build a two-billion-dollar mega-dam on the Mekong river of Laos and to construct several other large hydropower projects in the neighbouring country.Vietnam's main energy company expects to wrap up a feasibility study by April for a dam near Luang Prabang, the former Lao royal capital, that would dwarf existing dams in the landlocked country, state media has reported. [Source: AFP, December 24, 2007 >>>]

“Vietnam -- whose economic growth surged to 8.4 percent this year and power demand is rising at twice that rate -- has few rivers left to dam and is looking at the hydropower potential of its communist ally Laos. The Luang Prabang dam, slated for operation in 2014, would have a capacity of 1,410 MW, under a memorandum of understanding Laos signed with the PetroVietnam Power Corporation in mid-October, a Lao government website says. >>>

“Vietnamese companies in Laos also plan to start building the 400-million-dollar 290 MW Xekaman I dam next year, set for completion by 2012, state media has reported. Another dam, the 270-million-dollar, 250 MW Xekaman 3, is now under construction and set to transfer power across the border by 2009, while three more dam projects are now being studied, said the Vietnam News Agency.” >>>

Nuclear Power in Vietnam

Vietnam has plans to build eight nuclear plants to produce a combined 16,000 megawatts. According to to Reuters : it has the second-largest market after China for nuclear power in East Asia, which was expected to grow to $50 billion by 2030, according to the U.S. Vietnam is working with Russia to build its first nuclear plant in 2014 for completion in 2020 in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan. It has also signed an agreement with a Japanese consortium to develop a second nuclear power plant in the same province, with two reactors to become operational in 2024-2025. [Source: Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, October 10, 2013]

Vietnam has considered establishing nuclear power generation since 1995, and firm proposals surfaced in 2006. Russia has agreed to finance and build 2000 MWe of nuclear capacity. Japan has agreed similarly for another 2000 Mwe. The projects are overseen by the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute and the Ministry of Industry.

Norimitsu Onishi wrote in the New York Times, “The Vietnamese government fears that the country's strong economic growth will be jeopardised without the energy provided by nuclear plants. Vietnam, which relies mostly on hydroelectricity, is expected to become a net importer of energy in 2015. "One of the reasons for the introduction of nuclear power in Vietnam is the shortage of conventional fuel supply sources, included imported," Le Doan Phac, deputy director-general of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, the government's main nuclear research and development body, said in an email message."[Source: Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times, March 5, 2012 ////]

“Russia and Japan have won bids to build Vietnam’s first two plants; South Korea is expected to be selected for the third. For Japan, the contract was the fruit of years of high-level lobbying by the government and the nuclear industry, which is threatened at home by a strong public reaction against nuclear power, after the crisis last year. About 500 Vietnamese have gone through workshops by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency since 2001. Toshiba, a plant manufacturer, has also offered one-month courses since 2006 to win the construction contract. Like Russia, which has pledged Vietnam loans of US$8 billion (RM24 billion) to US$9 billion to finance the first plant’s construction, Japan is expected to offer a package of low-interest loans through the Japan Bank of International Cooperation. With the memories of the Fukushima disaster still raw in Japan, the Japanese government’s active role in selling nuclear plants to developing nations like Vietnam has drawn sharp criticism. ////

“Critics say that the government and nuclear industry’s joint efforts recall the kind of collusive ties that led to the Fukushima disaster. The government’s low-interest loans — taxpayers’ money — will benefit only politically-connected plant manufacturers, they say. Japanese supporters of exports say that developing nations like Vietnam have the right to choose nuclear power to expand their economies, just as Japan did decades ago. ////

History of Nuclear Power in Vietnam

In the early 1980s two preliminary nuclear power studies were undertaken, followed by another which reported in 1995 that: "Around the year 2015, when electricity demand reaches more than 100 billion kWh, nuclear power should be introduced for satisfying the continuous growth in the country's electricity demand in that time and beyond". Current projections almost double this. [Source: World Nuclear Association, May 2013 <+>]

In February 2006 the government announced that a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant should be on line by 2020. This general target was confirmed in a nuclear power development plan approved by the government in August 2007, with the target being raised to a total of 8000 MWe nuclear by 2025. A general law on nuclear energy was passed in mid 2008, and a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework is being developed. <+>

Since October 2008, two reactors total 2000 MWe have been planned at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province. A further 2000 MWe was planned at Vinh Hai nearby, followed by a further 6000 MWe by 2030. Both locations are based particularly on geological suitability on the coast. A high demand scenario would give 8000 MWe in 2025 and 15,000 MWe (10 percent of total) in 2030 at up to eight sites in five provinces. Four more units would be added to the first two sites, then six more at three or four central sites in provinces of Quang Ngai (Duc Thang or Duc Chanh), Binh Dinh (Hoai My) and Phu Yen (Xuan Phuong). These, plus Ky Xuan in the northern Ha Tinh province, remained proposals in mid 2011.

Atomstroyexport, Westinghouse, EdF, Kepco, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) all expressed strong interest in supplying the first two twin-unit plants. Unconfirmed reports early in 2010 said that the Japanese government, with Tepco and others, offered an $11 billion contract, also that a consortium of Mitsubishi, Toshiba and Hitachi bid for the project. The plants will be state-owned under EVN, with no private equity. <+>

Planned and Proposed Nuclear Power Reactors in Vietnam to 2030

Planned and Proposed Nuclear Power Reactors to 2030 (location, plant (province), type, mwe nominal start, construction, operation): 1) Phuoc Dinh in Ninh Thuan Province, 1-1, VVER-1000/428, 1060, Dec 2014?, Dec 2015?, Dec 2020. 2 ) Ninh Thuan 1-2 in Ninh Thuan Province, VVER-1000/428, 1060, 2016, 2021. 3) Ninh Thuan 1-3 in Ninh Thuan Province, VVER-1000, 1000, 2024. 3) Ninh Thuan 1-4 in Ninh Thuan Province, VVER-1000, 1000, 2025. 4) Vinh Hai, Ninh Thuan 2-1, Japanese Gen III, 1000, Dec 2015, Dec 2020?. 5) Ninh Thuan 2-2 in Ninh Thuan Province, Japanese Gen III, 1000, 2016, 2022?. 6) Ninh Thuan 2-3 in Ninh Thuan Province, Japanese Gen III, 1000, 2026. 7) Ninh Thuan 2-4 in Ninh Thuan Province, Japanese Gen III, 1000, 2027. 8) Central, APR-1400?, 1350, 2028. 9 ) Central, APR-1400?, 1350, 2029. [Source: World Nuclear Association, May 2013 <+>]

In July 2011 the government issued a master plan specifying Ninh Thuan 1 & 2 nuclear power plants with a total of eight 1000 MWe-class reactors, one coming on line each year 2020-27, then two more larger ones to 2029 at a central location. The Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT) is responsible for the actual projects, while the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST) supports the program, developing a master plan and regulation. <+>

The main focus is now on the initial 2000 MWe of the power plant at Phuoc Dinh in Ninh Thuan province. A pre-feasibility study for this carried out by the Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT) was approved by the National Assembly in November 2009, and a comprehensive feasibility study is following. In May 2010 the prime minister established the Ninh Thuan nuclear power project. The Ninh Thuan Project Management Board functions under EVN. <+>

In October 2010 an intergovernmental agreement was signed for Atomstroyexport to build the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant, using two VVER-1000 or 1200 reactors, later specified as AES-91 power plants as at Tianwan in China. It is to be constructed from 2014 as a turnkey project and come into operation from 2020. Rosatom has confirmed that Russia's Ministry of Finance is prepared to finance at least 85 percent of this first plant, to supply the fuel and take back the used fuel for the life of the plant, as is normal Russian policy for non-nuclear-weapons states. An agreement for up to $9 billion finance was signed in November 2011 with the Russian government's state export credit bureau, and a second agreement for $500 million loan covered the establishment of a nuclear science and technology center. 'Several tens of students' have been undertaking training in Russia. The work schedule was confirmed by Rosatom in mid 2012. <+>

On the same day in October 2010 an intergovernmental agreement with Japan was signed for construction of a second nuclear power plant at Vinh Hai in Ninh Thuan province, with its two reactors to come on line in 2024-25 (since brought forward, but then reverted). The following month the government signed a further accord with Japan on this, and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), said that Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) and the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co. Ltd. (JINED), would work with EVN on the project, which will involve financing and insurance of up to 85 percent of the total cost. JINED is a consortium of Japan's METI, nine utilities (led by Chubu, Kansai & Tepco) and three manufacturers (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Hitachi). The intergovernmental agreement took effect from January 2012. <+>

In February 2011 JAPC signed an agreement with EVN to advance the feasibility study, and in September it signed a contract with EVN to provide consulting services to help with site selection and an 18-month, $26 million feasibility study including technology selection with economic and financial analysis, funded by the Japanese government. The following day an agreement (MOU) was signed between EVN and JINED to progress the design, construction and operation of the plant. EVN listed six criteria to apply, including late-model reactors, stable supply of fuel, support for local industry and education of staff, and financial support. Japan has committed to train about 1000 staff for Ninh Thuan 2. Vinh Hai is on Cam Ranh Bay, about 20 kilometers northeast of Phuoc Dinh. In October 2011 a less-formal arrangement for cooperation in construction was signed, and work on the infrastructure for construction was under way. A decision on technology is not expected before late 2013, though PWR appears likely, and Mitsubishi says that if it is PWR then the reference plant will be Hokkaido’s Tomari 3, an 866 MWe unit. <+>

The Vietnam and South Korean presidents have approved a jointly-prepared plan on nuclear power plant construction, and agreed to "use the plan as a basis for future cooperation projects to be undertaken in accordance with agreement between the two countries." "The two sides took a special note of South Korea's proposals on developing a nuclear power plant in Vietnam based on South Korean technologies," according to a joint statement in November 2011. In March 2012 a nuclear cooperation agreement was signed to take this forward, with a one-year feasibility study on constructing a Korean plant. <+>

As well as developing nuclear power plants in Vietnam, EVN expects to collaborate with CGNPC which is building the large Fangchenggang nuclear power plant just across the northern border. A nuclear cooperation agreement was signed with Russia in 2002, and since 2006, others have been signed with France, China (in particular with CGNPC), South Korea, Japan, USA and Canada. In 2007 there was an agreement between the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) for cooperation and information exchange on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. A further nuclear cooperation agreement with the USA was signed in March 2010. In June 2010 the Japan Atomic Energy Agency signed an agreement with the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety & Control (VARANS) for infrastructure development for safeguards and nuclear security in respect of nuclear nonproliferation. <+>

In January 2014, the Bangkok Post reported: “The Vietnamese government has decided to defer a plan to build a nuclear power plant for at least two years to ensure safety measures are put in place. Vietnam planned to launch the project in 2014 but Vietnamese Science and Technology Minister Nguyen Quan expected the delay due to additional safety measures, the Vietnam News reported. The delay followed a suggestion by Yukiya Amano, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency that Vietnam not rush to build a plant. [Source: Bangkok Post, January 22, 2014]

Research, Uranium and Nuclear Fuel cycle in Vietnam

The Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment’s Department of Geology & Minerals is undertaking evaluation of a uranium deposit in Quang Nam province which is believed to have about 7000 tU in 0.05 percent ore. Canadian company NWT Uranium Corp has been asked to help assess prospects. [Source: World Nuclear Association, May 2013 <+>]

However, 2010 plans call for importing all the uranium required for 14 reactors totalling 10.7 Gwe. For the first two reactors, Russia's policy for building nuclear power plants in non-nuclear weapons states is to deliver on a turnkey basis, including supply of all fuel and repatriation of used fuel for the life of the plant. The fuel is to be reprocessed in Russia and the separated wastes returned to the client country eventually. <+>

An early nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia relates principally to Vietnam's 500 kW Da Lat research reactor, built in 1980, commissioned 1984. This replaced an earlier US Triga MkII reactor which started in 1963 but was dismantled by the USA in the early 1970s. In 2007 the USA helped convert the Da Lat reactor to use low-enriched fuel. It is run by Vinatom. Russia has agreed to build a new 15 MW research reactor at Da Lat, starting in mid 2013, for operation from October 2018.

Organization and Regulation of Nuclear Power in Vietnam

Vietnam's new Atomic Energy Law was passed in June 2008 and came into effect early in 2009. Under this, a national nuclear safety commission responsible to the Prime Minister for safety and licensing was established in July 2010. The law is being revised by 2013 to make it more fit for purpose, particularly integrating regulatory aspects. [Source: World Nuclear Association, May 2013 <+>]

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission/ Agency was established in 1976 and is under the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST). A national steering committee with the role of Implementing Organization, and including the representatives of the different ministries and governmental organizations, was established in May 2010 by the Prime Minister. <+>

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VINATOM) is part of MOST, and responsible for R&D, technical support, personnel training and technical services including the Da Lat research reactor. The Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety & Control (VARANS) is the regulator, also part of MOST. In June 2008 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and VARANS signed a cooperation agreement to share technical information on nuclear energy as well as exchanging information about regulations, environmental impact and safety of nuclear sites. This will be the main formative influence on VARANS, though it is also actively cooperating with NISA (Japan) and Rostechnadzor (Russia), which will shape the regulatory arrangements for the first plant. By January 2012 VARANS had 90 staff (up from 8 in Aug 2005), including 11 PhD, 17 Msc. <+>

Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) will be the company responsible for building and operating the plants, and will be the sole investor for the first two plants (each nominally 2 x 1000 MWe). The estimated $11 billion for these was to be financed with up to 25 percent EVN equity and the balance borrowed from countries supplying the technology. EVN considers that with the average rate of GDP development at about 7 - 8 percent per year it believes that financing should not be an insuperable problem. EVN is under the Department of Energy within the Ministry of Industry & Trade (MOIT). The Ninh Thuan Project Management Board is under EVN. <+>

In May 2013 the prime minister announced the establishment of a new National Council for Atomic Energy Development & Application which is to identify strategies and priorities and advise the government. It will also coordinate ministries, agencies, governmental bodies and localities in developing nuclear energy and "realizing" nuclear power programs. It will also take on a role in international nuclear cooperation activities with organizations and individual countries. <+>

Building a Nuclear Power Workforce in Vietnam

Norimitsu Onishi wrote in the New York Times, “Inside an unheated classroom at the Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology in Hanoi, about 20 young government technicians from Vietnam's incipient nuclear power industry kept on their winter jackets on the first morning of a 10-day workshop on radiation. The workshop, sponsored by the semi-governmental Japan Atomic Energy Agency, started with radiation physics 101. The students then collected radiation samples with the help of Japanese specialists and analysed them in a lab built by Japan. "Nuclear power is important for Vietnam's energy security, but, like fire, it has two sides," said one of the students, Nguyen Xuan Thuy, 27. "We have to learn how to take advantage of its good side."[Source: Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times, March 5, 2012 ////]

“As Vietnam prepares to commence one of the world's most ambitious nuclear power programmes, it is scrambling to raise from scratch a field of experts needed to operate and regulate nuclear power plants. The government, which is beefing up nuclear engineering programmes at its universities and sending increasing numbers of young technicians abroad, says Vietnam will have enough qualified experts to safely manage an industry that is scheduled to grow from one nuclear reactor in 2020 to 10 reactors by 2030. ////

“But some Vietnamese and foreign experts said that was too little time to establish a credible regulatory body, especially in a country with wide-spread corruption, poor safety standards and a lack of transparency. They said the ambitious timetable could lead to the kind of weak regulation, as well as collusive ties between regulators and operators, that contributed to the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011. ////

“Hien Pham Duy, one of Vietnam's most senior nuclear scientists and an adviser to government agencies overseeing nuclear power, said it had been his "dream for many years" to bring nuclear power to Vietnam. But he said the government's plans were based on a "lack of vigorous assessment of the inherent problems of nuclear power, especially those arising in less developed countries". Hien, a former director of the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute, which houses Vietnam's nuclear research reactor, pointed to the high rates of accidents on Vietnam's roads as the most visible example of a "bad safety culture" that pervaded "every field of activity in the country". ////

“Tran Dai Phuc, a nuclear engineer who worked in the French nuclear industry for four decades and is now an adviser to Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology, the ministry in charge of nuclear power, said potential problems were not related to the reactors' technology but to the lack of "democracy as well as the responsibility of personnel, a culture of quality assurance and general safety regarding installation and impact on the environment". ////

Vietnam Plant Generates Power from Greenhouse Gas

In May 2007, AFP reported: A new power plant in Vietnam will use methane gas from an urban waste dump to generate electricity while reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, officials said Friday. The Malaysian-Canadian joint venture constructing the three-million-dollar facility plans to profit from the reduced emissions through a carbon trading mechanism set up under the Kyoto Protocol to combat global warming. [Source: Agence France Presse, May 4, 2007 /|\]

“The plant, to be built next year in the central city of Danang, is the first of several planned in Vietnam by Malaysian engineering firm P.J. International Ltd and Canadian renewable energy company LFGC Corporation. The companies have said they hoped to build similar landfill power plants in Vietnam's largest urban area, Ho Chi Minh City, the capital Hanoi and the northern port city of Haiphong. The Danang plant would use gas from the 10-hectare (25-acre) Khanh Son landfill with 15 million tons of waste, said Phan Thi Nu, head of the technical department of the city's Urban Environment Company. Under the agreement, LFGC plans to sell so-called Certified Emission Reduction units on the international carbon market set up under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto treaty, the Malaysian partner has said. The Canadian and Malaysian companies are already cooperating in landfill gas extraction and power projects that use waste products from palm oil milling as a fuel for biomass plants, LFGC said on its website. /|\

“Rapid economic growth in Vietnam, a country of 84 million people, has driven up industrial and domestic electricity demand, which is growing by about 15 percent a year, and increased pollution and waste. Global warming and rising sea levels would badly impact Vietnam -- a country with a long coastline and dense population centers in low-lying river deltas -- scientists warned at a Hanoi conference this week. It would also intensify severe weather events such as typhoons and droughts, the Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and the Environment told a national forum on global climate change, state media reported.” /|\

Vietnam Biofuels Plan

“Nguyen Nhat Lam of Reuters wrote: “Vietnam, which has a technology-sharing pact with leading ethanol producer Brazil, approved the production and use of biofuels as it seeks to diversify its energy sources. Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said in a directive that biofuel output, including ethanol, would reach 250,000 tons by 2015 and 1.8 million tons by 2025, meeting 5 percent of the energy-hungry Southeast Asian country's total fuel demand. [Source: Nguyen Nhat Lam, Reuters, November 22, 2007 /~/]

“The government would create favorable conditions to promote the transfer of biofuel technology and investment, including tax incentives and low-interest loans, the directive said. The economy of underdeveloped Vietnam is growing at more than 8 percent a year, and forecast to expand between 8.5 percent and 9 percent in 2008, boosted by infrastructure and energy projects. Fears about climate change have fueled a boom in biofuels which has diverted some food crops into fuel production, pushing up cereal prices. /~/

“But some environmentalists and food experts say any major use of biofuels, especially wood, as an alternative to burning fossil fuels could lead to further deforestation and hunger. In May, Vietnam signed an agreement with Brazil, the world's leading ethanol exporter, to share ethanol fuel technologies. A subsidiary of state-run oil monopoly Petrovietnam plans to have an ethanol plant up in 2009. The subsidiary, Petrosetco, has teamed up with Japan's Itochu Corp. to produce ethanol from tapioca chips at a cost of $100 million.” /~/

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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