The agreement between Toronto-based NWT and the Vietnamese institute calls for the Canadian company to analyze uranium ore in the country, including assessing the economic and technical feasibility of any reserves found, NWT said in a stock exchange statement released yesterday.

NWT intends to ultimately help “develop the country’s nuclear energy sector,” the company said. “NWT Uranium believes that this memorandum of understanding is the first step to realizing its strategy in Vietnam of discovering, exploring and mining uranium properties in the country.”

Russia’s Rosatom Corp. has been selected to take part in building Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant, with work due to start in 2014, the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety said in June. Japan’s trade minister led a group of companies on an August visit to Hanoi to pitch a Japanese role in subsequent plants.

The Vietnam News reported in 2008 that Vietnam planned to mine uranium in the central province of Quang Nam to help support its nuclear power plans. The site targeted in Quang Nam may hold about 8,000 metric tons, while Vietnam’s nationwide uranium reserves may reach into the hundreds of thousands of tons, according to the Vietnam News report.

‘Peaceful Utilization’

Vietnam’s government signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2007 that “reaffirmed our policies on exclusively peaceful utilization of atomic energy,” according to a statement on the website of the Vietnamese nuclear safety agency.

In 2007, the U.S. Energy Department helped Vietnam convert a civilian research reactor in the south-central city of Dalat from the use of highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium fuel. In March of this year, the American and Vietnamese governments signed an accord to develop “the regulatory and physical infrastructure needed for a safe and secure Vietnamese civilian nuclear power sector.”

Shares in NWT, which describes itself as an “exploration stage company,” jumped 8.1 percent yesterday in Toronto, the biggest gain since April.

“There are areas in central Vietnam such as Quang Nam which have the younger types of rocks which are more conducive to uranium, so it’s not implausible,” said David Woodhouse, a director of the Vietnam Resource Investments Holdings Ltd. fund.

“If Vietnam were to find any uranium it would certainly be cheaper for them to use their own reserves for nuclear power even if anything they found had to be shipped outside the country for processing,” Woodhouse said in a telephone interview today from Hanoi.

By Jason Folkmanis - Bloomberg - September 8, 2010