"This is a key part of a necessary effort to ensure that United States industry is able to participate in the highly competitive global nuclear energy market," Richard Myers, vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute said on 3 October. "The US role and influence in that multibillion-dollar market is uncertain as global competitors have gained a larger share of it."

Vietnam already has plans to have two Russian reactors totalling 2000 MWe at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province by 2020, followed by another 2000 MWe using Japanese technology at Vinh Hai in the same province.

"Vietnam is one of those places where international competitors have a head start but, with this agreement in place, US companies can now compete on a more even playing field. The market in Vietnam is estimated to be worth as much as $20 billion," Myers said. "According to the Department of Commerce, that much work would create 50,000 high-paying US jobs and ensure a US presence and influence in a critical industry."

"To support its rapid economic development, Vietnam intends to develop up to 10,000 megawatts of nuclear energy capacity by 2030, with the first reactors beginning construction in the coming decade. This agreement will enable US suppliers to effectively compete against Russian and Japanese suppliers that already have established themselves in the Vietnamese market."

In anticipation of this agreement entering into force, US-based Lightbridge Corporation recently signed a cooperative memorandum of understanding (MoU)with Vietnam to support its nuclear energy safety program.

Myers described that MoU as "a prime example" of the benefits that will accrue both to US industry specifically and to nuclear safety more broadly as the result of this agreement.

"Vietnam worked closely with the United States to develop a responsible and transparent nuclear energy program. This included Vietnam affirming its intent to rely on international markets for uranium fuel supplies and not to pursue domestic uranium enrichment or used-fuel reprocessing capabilities," he said.

A 123 agreement gets its name from a section of the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which establishes an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the USA and any other nation. Under the latest such agreement, the USA could license the export of nuclear reactor and research information, material, and equipment to Vietnam.

By World Nuclear News - October 6, 2014