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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

U.S., Vietnam sign nuclear energy agreement

http://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/world/world_govtpolitics/article/VIETGAT30_20100330-061201/333898/#When:10:12:01Z

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 30, 2010

HANOI, Vietnam -- The United States and Vietnam signed an agreement today that may pave the way for U.S. firms to help build nuclear plants in the Southeast Asian country as it strives to meet booming energy demand.

The new agreement addresses nuclear safety and nonproliferation concerns and is a prerequisite to a deal that could allow companies like Westinghouse and General Electric to participate in Vietnam's nuclear energy sector.

"This is an important moment in our bilateral relations," U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak said during a signing ceremony with Le Dinh Tien, Vietnam's vice minister of science and technology.

Michalak also announced that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will attend a nuclear security summit hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington next month.

Today's agreement was a "key step" in advancing nonproliferation goals and developing the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Vietnam, Michalak said.

Vietnam's demand for power is expected to grow by 16 percent a year until 2015, according to government projections, and the country's booming economy has made it difficult for supply to keep pace with demand.

Vietnam has already signed nuclear energy cooperation agreements with Russia, China, France, South Korea, India and Argentina, Tien said.

"This is an important step to further cooperation between Vietnam and the U.S. on nuclear energy," Tien said.

In November, Vietnam's National Assembly approved the construction of two nuclear power plants in the central province of Ninh Thuan.

Last year, Vietnam signed a deal with Russia under which a Russian firm will help build the first plant. Construction is to start in 2014 and be completed in 2020.

Michalak said it could take six months to a year to negotiate a broader agreement that would facilitate the participation of U.S. firms in Vietnam's nuclear power sector.

"U.S. companies can provide the most efficient technology, the most advanced equipment and the most comprehensive services available," Michalak said.

Michalak said it was "only fitting" for the former foes to deepen their cooperation this year, 35 years after the end of the Vietnam War and 15 years after they re-established diplomatic ties.

-- The Associated Press

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