[enviro-vlc] VN's nuclear renaissance
vern.weitzel at gmail.com
Sat Jul 3 10:07:18 EST 2010
From: Stephen Denney <srdenney at gmail.com>
Date: 23 June 2010 4:06:25 PM PDT
To: vnnews-l at anu.edu.au
Subject: [vnnews-l] HI: VN's nuclear renaissance
Vietnam’s unnecessary nuclear ‘renaissance’
Blogpost by jmckeati - June 23, 2010 at 2:22 PM Add comment
The news just in from Vietnam is that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan
Dung has approved the construction of eight new nuclear power plants
in the country. Each plant will feature ‘at least’ four reactors and
all will be operational by 2030.
So, that’s ‘at least’ 32 reactors built within the next 20
years. Good luck with that, Mr Dung, because you’re really going to
need it. Thinking that a country can built that many nuclear reactors
in such a timeframe leaps over some pretty huge assumptions.
Firstly, there’s the logistics involved. The nuclear
‘renaissance’ has a rather large bottleneck. There is just one company
in the world, Japan Steel Works, that makes pressure vessels - the
part of a nuclear reactor that contains the core and coolant system –
for the international market. Right now, the company can make just ten
of these vessels a year.
According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, ‘55 reactors were in
full planning at the end of 2009 and in the US over 30 licence
applications are under active discussion’. Vietnam is going to have to
join the back of a very long queue.
You should also note that ‘full planning’ and ‘licence
applications’ and ‘active discussion’ are a long, long, long way away
from ‘under construction’ and ‘operational’. Nowhere is talk cheaper
than in the nuclear industry. This highly ambitious announcement in
Vietnam may very well implode as the others have in the US, UK,
Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, the Baltic
states, Bulgaria, Romania and many other places.
If no other company starts producing the right kind of pressure
vessels and quickly (and the collapse of funding for a pressure
vessel production plant in the UK made this more unlikely), and if
(that’s a big if) all the above 85 orders come in, at current
production rates, Japan Steel Works could take eight and a half years
to fulfil current demand. And yet Vietnam wants construction started
on four reactors to begin in 2014 and with at least one completed by
Secondly there’s the cost. The first Russia-supplied plants will
cost between 11 billion and 18 billion dollars says the Vietnamese
government. That’s a massive margin of error and indicative of the
wildly unpredictable nature of building nuclear reactors. Do we buy
anything else with such wildly variable price tags? Would you order a
meal in a restaurant whose menu told you it would cost somewhere
between X and Y and very likely more? Two years back, Bulgaria planned
to build just two, supposedly cheap, Russian reactors for 4 billion
euros in Belene. Now the cost has been revised to between 10 and 12
billion euros (12 to 15 billion dollars) for just two reactors. Wake
Then there’s the reasons for building these reactors. Why
nuclear power, exactly? ‘Vietnam's demand for power is expected to
grow by 16 percent a year until 2015, according to government
projections’. But have other alternatives been considered? How much
energy could be saved with simple and cheap efficiency programmes, for
example? How about renewable energy?
A recent World Bank study found Vietnam could produce more
than 500 gigawatts of electricity from land-based and off-shore wind
farms, 10 times the country's expected national demand in 2020.
…and yet the take-up of renewables in Vietnam is poor to say the least.
Cheaper, easier alternatives that are ready to go right now are
available to the people of Vietnam and yet Mr Dung is committing his
country to the expensive, difficult and long term nuclear option. Just
why is that?
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