The decision dealt a blow to global nuclear energy trade and watered down Japan’s efforts at exporting reactors
Vietnam ruled out nuclear power as a part of its energy mix after the National Assembly decided to abandon plans to build two new plants in collaboration with Russia and Japan. The decision, according to the Vietnamese government, was taken for economic reasons as the cost of the proposed plants (approved in 2009) doubled to nearly US$18 billion. Moreover, when the plans for the two plants were approved, the projected growth in annual power demand was 17-20 per cent. The annual growth forecast between 2016 and 2020 now stands at 11 per cent, and 7-8 per cent through 2030.
The two plants, which were supposed to be built in central Ninh Thuan province with assistance from Russian firm Rosatom and the Japanese consortium JINED, would have had a combined capacity of 4,000MW.
Concerns over nuclear facility and financial viability
The decision to scrap the plan not only dealt a blow to global nuclear energy trade but also watered down Japan’s efforts at exporting reactors, especially after the Fukushima disaster brought its domestic nuclear industry to a halt.
A recent earthquake off the coast of the Fukushima prefecture gave a chilling reminder of the dangers of having nuclear plant on Japan’s east coast. These events, according to Takuji Okubo of Japan Macro Advisors, could lead to another rise in the anti-nuclear power sentiment in Japan.
For Vietnam, nuclear energy is not economically viable because other cheaper sources of power are available. “Nuclear power is now less competitive than other power sources and is not urgently needed,” Duong Quang Thanh, chairman of the state-run Electricity of Vietnam Group that was overseeing the project, told local media on Wednesday.
Should India review its nuclear expansion plans?
Japan signed a nuclear agreement with India on November 11. According to the agreement, it can now export nuclear technology to India. It is interesting to note that Japan had long avoided civil nuclear cooperation with India because the latter had refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There are two reasons why Japan changed its stance. Firstly, it has its own security concerns in the changing geostrategic environment. Secondly, the country wants to counter shrinking sales at home by increasing exports.
India, a power-deficit nation, wants to ramp up its nuclear power producing capacity ten-fold by 2032. It is planning to build six nuclear power plants in southern states and seeks Japan's technical knowledge in setting up these plants. Currently, the country is setting up 6,700-megawatt nuclear power projects with an estimated cost of more than $18 billion.
It’s time India went into introspecting mode and thought about the safety concerns. Firstly, the country does not have an independent nuclear regulator. Secondly, India’s nuclear accident plans are not at par with international standards. Greenpeace, in its report, has recently raised concerns about “inadequate protection against possible exposure in case of a nuclear emergency”.