Nuclear Nam: Seismic study finds fault with Vietnam nuclear plants

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Two fault lines hitherto uncovered have provoked myriad calls for Vietnam‘s nuclear power plans to be deferred on safety considerations.

Even the catastrophe at the Fukushima I nuclear power station did not dampen Vietnam’s inclination to introduce nuclear power technology from Japan.

Although Japan’s policy on export of nuclear power facilities is wavering as a result of the goal of reducing its dependence on nuclear energy posted by former

Serious as the threats of earthquake and tsunamis are, geographical location is not the only problem with Vietnam’s efforts to produce nuclear energy, experts say.

According to a report presented at a conference on nuclear technology held in Ninh Thuan on August 18, there are fault lines near the locations planned for nuclear power plants that had not been detected earlier.

These faults are still dormant, according to the authors of the reports – a group of scientists from the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources (VIGMR).

According to the report, the two fault lines, Suoi Mia and Vinh Hai, could cause earthquakes that could rupture any proposed structures nearby.

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“Lack of safety is very dangerous and nuclear power is not something to fool with,” said Tran Huu Phat, chair of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Society.

 

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VIGMR director Tran Tan Van, who led the study, said the Suoi Mia fault had been detected via a 1.52-kilometer fracture that cut through the granite layer under the seabed.

Meanwhile, a fracture in the Vinh Hai fault line created a straight shoreline separating Hon Deo Island and several nearby islets from the mainland, he said.

The findings prompted the Ministry of Science and Technology to fund the group to conduct further research into these lines. Their study is expected to be completed in 2013.

According to a circular issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology on the construction of nuclear power plants, the project will have to move to a new site if there is an active seismic fracture within 8 kilometers from the planned location, unless there is another feasible solution.

Competency doubts

While a fresh seismic study is underway, scientists are also divided on whether Vietnam is ready to build nuclear power plants and if it is the only option.

Others have said Vietnam’s legislation on nuclear power is inadequate.

Joonhong Ahn, a nuclear expert at the University of California in Berkeley, said researchers should detail how active fault lines have been in the past and how high past tsunamis in the region have been.

“The important thing is to make sure that your design basis is correct. The Fukushima accident indicated that their design bases were wrong,” he told Thanh Nien Weekly via email.

“If those pieces of information (within 80-100 km, etc.) were found after the design had been made, the design should be reviewed carefully,” he added.

Last October, Vietnam signed a multi billion-dollar deal with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant, which is expected to come on-stream in 2020. Vietnam also plans to cooperate with Japan on two other nuclear reactors.

Eight nuclear plants are slated to be in operation here by 2031.

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