In Japan’s most aggressive move to promote exports of nuclear technology since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March, a Tokyo-based utility consortium signed a deal with Vietnam on Wednesday to conduct a feasibility study for two new reactors.
The agreement comes as a lifeline to Japan’s nuclear industry, which harbors ambitions of expanding abroad, even as its future is in doubt at home.
Amid a post-disaster reassessment of energy policy, the government has vowed to reduce dependence on nuclear power for domestic electricity generation.
But it has continued to push nuclear technology in overseas markets.
“This important milestone … shows Vietnam’s determination to develop nuclear power plants, especially in the face of global economic difficulties and after the incident at Japan’s Fukushima plant,” Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Hoang Quoc Vuong said at the signing ceremony in Hanoi. He said he expects nuclear power to account for 7% of Vietnam’s installed generation capacity by 2030.
On Thursday, a larger consortium of 13 Japanese companies, including the nine electric utilities, along with Hitachi and Toshiba, plan to sign another memorandum with Vietnam Electricity to start talks on reactor bids. That Tokyo-based entity, the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co., was set up last year under the trade ministry to promote reactor exports.
The Japanese government is expected to foot most of the bill for the plant through development aid and export promotion programs run by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. It made a down payment on that by underwriting the entire Y2 billion ($26 million) cost of the 18-month feasibility study.
The planned Japanese reactors will each have a 1,000-megawatt capacity and are slated to begin operation in 2021 and 2012, immediately after the startup of two Russian reactors currently under construction nearby. The two plants are located about 20 kilometers apart along the coast of southern Vietnam, about 400 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.
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