On the sidelines of the conference "Development of nuclear power infrastructure," held recently by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA,) Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan talked with the press about the Ninh Thuan nuclear power plants.

Under the plan approved by the National Assembly, the first nuclear power plant in Vietnam will be constructed in Ninh Thuan in 2014. However, technology selection, the location of the plant and human resource training policies have not been resolved definitively. Do you think that the project will be kicked off in 2014 and put into operation in 2020 as schedule?

According to schedule, in 2014 we will start the construction of the first plant. However, the starting point depends on preparatory work, including infrastructure. Therefore, we should not determine to kick off the project as scheduled. It is more important to prepare well: legal regulatory, infrastructure and human resources.

The biggest challenge we are facing is financial difficulties. The entire capital for the nuclear power project relies on ODA from Russia and Japan. Besides, there are many opinions about the decision to build nuclear power plants in Vietnam after the Fukushima disaster, although the technology that Vietnam has chosen ensures a very high level of security. Making consensus among the people is a huge challenge.

Human resource development is an important step in preparing the infrastructure for the development of nuclear power in Vietnam. But it seems that at this moment, maybe we have implemented it too slowly?

The government has established two national steering committees for nuclear power. One committee is chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, and the other, which is specialized on human resource training, is led by Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan.

However, we have encountered many difficulties due to the policy for experts and workers of the two nuclear power plants, which has yet to be made public. Meanwhile, the selection of trainees is also more demanding than other fields, because they have to take risks in the process of construction, operation of the plants. However, in recent years, Vietnam has cooperated with Russia, Japan, South Korea, France and the United States to train a team of young scientists.

In particular, in the last three years we sent 200 people to Russia, about 200-300 people to other countries to attend short-and long-term nuclear energy training courses.

We believe that if we can soon announce the remuneration to nuclear experts, the recruitment of trainees will be easier and we will have enough staffs to operate the plants.

The Government has spent VND2 trillion ($100 million) for nuclear expert training program. Accordingly, from September 1, 2012, we will send more students to Russia for training in the field of nuclear power?

This is part of the VND2 trillion package for the nuclear training program. In addition, the Electricity Group of Vietnam (EVN) also provides VND1 trillion ($50 million) for the training of technicians and workers operating nuclear power plants. It is expected that by 2020, Vietnam will have enough manpower for operating the plants.

The project to develop nuclear power human resource has been given to five universities. Although the benchmarks are very low, only 15 and 16 marks, but each school could recruit 40 - 60 students. Yet later, students still drop out of school. In this situation, can we ensure sufficient human resources for nuclear power, in quality and quantity?

Some countries completely use foreign labor at their nuclear power plants, but we do not want to do that. We want our plants to be operated by our own people.

It is true that enrolled students did not score high marks. One of the reasons is the policy for trainees have not been issued yet. As I know, the government is about to release the policy.

In my opinion, students who are specialized in nuclear power studies should be granted a scholarship and enjoy the most favorable conditions.

The people who will operate the nuclear power plant in the future should be paid a very high salary because they can be exposed to high-risk radioactive environment. Even the wage for workers in nuclear power plants must be higher than that of ministers. Surely then, the best students will be studying nuclear power.

Are there any policies for overseas Vietnamese scientists who want to go home to work in this field?

Vietnam always opens the door for them. However, the government still has a lot of difficulties, so in the initial phase we are expected to use only part of the State budget; the rest will be mobilize from international organizations, to pay them. There are many experts working in France and the United States wanted to return to Vietnam to work.

We are trying to create the best working environment to attract scientists. Specifically, a nuclear science and technology center is to be built at the cost of $500, funded by Russia. It is expected that along with the current research institutions in Vietnam, by 2017 we will have adequate facilities for scientists.

VietNamNet Bridge - October 19, 2012