Problems for Vietnamese nuclear students

1 March 2017

A group of 28 Vietnamese students on 13 February became the first international graduates of a course on nuclear technology at Russia's National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (NRU-MEPhi). The six-year course is part of a programme supported by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom. The number of foreign students enrolled at NRU-MEPhI has increased significantly, with half of them coming from countries where Rosatom is building NPPs, such as Finland, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam.

However, the Vietnamese students may now find themselves without a job when they return home, as the nuclear development programme has been cancelled. In 2009, Vietnam’s National Assembly ratified plans to build  4000MWe of nuclear capacity in Ninh Thuan. Rosatom and Japan Atomic Power Company were selected to build the units, with Russia providing a loan of $8bn for the first. In October 2010, Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement with Vietnam to build its first NPP at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province, as a turnkey project, comprising two 1200MWe VVER reactors and be owned and operated by state-owned Electricity of Vietnam. A further agreement was signed in November 2011 for the construction of a nuclear science and technology centre at Hanoi Polytechnic University, with Russia providing loans worth $500m for the centre's construction. Then, in November 2016, Vietnam's legislature endorsed the government's decision to abandon the nuclear plans in favour of renewable energy and power imports amid lower crude oil and coal prices.

Earlier in February students at Russia’s FEFU university in Vladivostok learned that the course on Nuclear Physics and Combined Heat and Power was being disbanded. The course in 2014 to train specialists to operate Vietnam’s planned NPPs. The students have been given the option of transferring to other specialties. Currently the first year of the programme is training 82 students: 56 Vietnamese and 26 Russian. In the second year there are 26 (seven Vietnamese and 19 Russian), and in the third, 10 students, all Russian. Any students that want to continue their nuclear courses will be transferred to other universities.

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