Right after getting the nod from the National Assembly on the development of the nuclear power program, in December 2009, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung paid a working visit to Russia, where, at the working session with the then Prime Minister Putin, asked Russia to help build the first nuclear power plant in Vietnam.

Also at the meeting, the Russian side suggested building a nuclear science & technology center to help develop Vietnam’s nuclear power program.

Dr. Tran Chi Thanh, Head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute, emphasized that the existence of such a center is very necessary for Vietnam, especially in the context of the Vietnam’s low science and technology development level.

In fact, when Russia suggested the building of the center, did not say in details about what the center would have. After a lot of arguments about if the center needs to have a nuclear pile, the Ministry of Science and Technology has decided to develop a center with a nuclear pile. The plan has been supported by the Russian side.

In November 2011, Vietnam and Russia signed an inter-government agreement on the construction of the nuclear science and technology center with the investment capital of $500 million. The capital would be loaned by the Russian government at preferential interest rate.

In April, Dr. Thanh and his colleagues would have a working visit to Russia to work with ROSATCOM, the Russian stated owned atomic energy conglomerate on the project.

The nuclear science & technology center, once operational, would have the main functions of making scientific research and developing technologies to support the national nuclear power program development, carrying out advanced research works on nuclear physics, material and biology sciences.

Especially, it would also develop some services such as making radioisotopes for health treatment and carrying out training programs.

The center has been decided to be located in Da Lat City, where there is another nuclear pile already. This would allow Vietnam to take full advantage of the workforce and the 30-year experience to develop the center with a new nuclear pile.

The new pile would be situated in another place, which is about 12 kilometers far from the existing pile. ROSATCOM has conducted a preliminary field trip to the place and has come to a conclusion that the place can well satisfy the requirements for the construction of such a center.

Once the new pile is put into operation, the existing pile would be used mainly for the training, which is a part of the program on developing the Da Lat University into the leading training establishment in the country in producing the labor force for the nuclear industry.

Dr. Thanh has revealed that Vietnam would “place orders” to the Russian side when drawing up the feasibility study of the project. The science & technology center will have to fulfill the functions Vietnam wants.

Especially, Vietnamese specialists will hold the main role in calculating and designing the new nuclear pile. Vietnamese officers would also implement other tasks together with the Russian partner.

Tia Sang - April 11, 2013