Three months after US secretary of state John Kerry first signed an agreement for peaceful cooperation with Vietnamese foreign minister Pham Binh Minh at an Asian conference, US president Barack Obama has approved the deal. It now passes to Congress for a 90-day review.
Under the agreement, US companies will be allowed to export nuclear-related fuel, expertise, reactors and equipment. The pact prohibits Vietnam from enriching or reprocessing plutonium or uranium, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. If Congress does not act, it will come into force in late May 2014.
In a White House statement, Obama said, "I have determined that the performance of the Agreement will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security."
The agreement is important for US exporters, according to Richard Myers, the Nuclear Energy Institute's vice president for policy development. "This agreement has the potential to result in $10 billion to $20 billion in US nuclear exports," he said in a statement in October.
According to the Institute, Vietnam plans to build up to 13 nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 16,000 megawatts over the next two decades. Vietnam signed contracts in 2010 for Russia to build two reactors by 2020 and with Japan for two more.
Myers added, "The global revival of nuclear energy presents the United States an opportunity to maintain and grow the domestic industry, but US success in this sector can no longer be taken for granted.
“U.S. nuclear exports are critical if we are to achieve meaningful progress on a number of important issues: reducing emissions, increasing U.S. influence on nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation, and creating tens of thousands of US jobs.
Atomstroyexport is the general contractor of the two reactors at Ninh Thuan 1. A statement on its website said that construction of the two VVER-1000 units is scheduled to start in 2014. Since 2012 the project has been implemented with cooperation of NIAEP, ASE's new partner company.