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Vietnam, in ignorance, buying Japan’s nuclear technology

Japan lobbied aggressively to win the contract to build a nuclear power plant in Vietnam.   Japan and other nuclear powers are now desperate to sell plants to developing nations, since Fukushima has destroyed the dream of a nuclear renaissance in advanced economies.  

If we don’t, someone else will (and other dubious rationalizations) Kanagawa Notebook, September 23, 2012  “…..Vietnam, a nation which, with the assistance and “know-how” of both Russia and Japan, is about to go nuclear.  In spite of the Fukushima disaster, the Vietnamese government plans to honor their contract with a Japanese firm to build a nuclear power plant, and in fact, preparations are already underway.

While the Noda administration waffles and stumbles before its own citizens, it is “leading the way” with confidence in Vietnam, where residents believe that 1) the nuclear industry is safe and trustworthy, and 2) Fukushima was something unfortunate, but unrelated to their own situation.

Japan lobbied aggressively to win the contract to build a nuclear power plant in Vietnam.  As critics correctly charge, Japan and other nuclear powers are now desperate to sell plants to developing nations, since Fukushima has destroyed the dream of a nuclear renaissance in advanced economies.
And in this case, since Vietnam does not yet possess the technology or even the know-how, Japanese experts must train a generation of young Vietnamese who hope to become nuclear engineers: future researchers, operators and managers of the nuclear power plants that the government hopes will revitalize the country.  A New York Times article  from this past March details a workshop held in Hanoi, sponsored by members of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency; in a Japanese-built research lab, Japanese specialists held a ten-day workshop for a group of twenty young and eager Vietnamese students, described as “Radiation Physics 101″.  Radiation Physics in ten days?? …..
  According to the same NY Times article, both Vietnamese and foreign experts have already expressed concern that this leaves “…. too little time to establish a credible regulatory body, especially in a country with widespread corruption, poor safety standards, and a lack of transparency, ” and that “…the overly ambitious timetable could lead to the kind of weak regulation, as well as collusive ties between regulators and operators, that contributed to the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan last year.”
Still more disturbing was an article I found in the Asia-Pacific Journal entitled “Japanese Nuclear Power Comes to a Vietnam Village” (under the “What’s Hot” tab) . It’s an essay by photo-journalist Kimura Satoru, who journeyed to the village of Tay Anh, in south central Vietnam, where the first of the nuclear power plants is scheduled for construction.  The village, as Kimura-san describes it, is much like some of the coastal villages in Tohoku: sustained by both fishing and farming, and rich in wildlife and natural resources. My daughter would be interested in the rare sea turtles that come onto the sand to breed and lay eggs.  Seven hundred households make up the village, and their inhabitants will be re-located to an area two kilos away, as early as 2014. “It can’t be helped as it’s for the development of the country,” says a farmer interviewed by Kimura, and this seems to be the general attitude of other residents as well.

Kimura-san relates the story of village residents who were invited to fly from Vietnam to tour a Japanese nuclear power plant in 2010; they returned suitably impressed and convinced of the safety of nuclear energy, and were instructed to relay what they had learned to other villagers.  The following year, meltdowns at Fukushima naturally caused  anxiety abroad, and a Japanese delegation was dispatched to Vietnam to assure villagers that Japan had learned from its mistakes and that nuclear power was, in fact, as safe as ever.  Kimura is convinced that residents of Tay Anh have accepted this explanation, as villagers he spoke with showed little evidence of fear or distrust regarding the forthcoming construction project that will overtake their homes and farms in less than two years.  Here’s the situation in the journalist’s own words:

What I see among Vietnamese in the midst of nuclear power plant construction is the impossibility of their learning about nuclear power. Above all, they lack both consciousness of the issues and sufficient information.  The reason the Tay Anh villagers are not negative about nuclear power is not that they actively endorse its safety.  The reason is that no negative information is disclosed to them.  Their trust in the Japanese people’s high technical ability seems to influence the residents’ consciousness of nuclear power.   Thus I unexpectedly heard the safety myth about nuclear power in Tay Anh village. It floated among villagers like a ghost that has no substance.

And that’s the bottom line to me: in this small Vietnamese village there seems to be a myth of safety and security associated with nuclear power, combined with a dearth of information……. Maeda Tadashi, an official at the “Japan Bank of International Cooperation”, has rationalized Japan’s actions in Vietnam by saying, “They’ll just buy from another country”  if we don’t sell them nuclear power. ….


September 24, 2012 - Posted by | marketing of nuclear, Vietnam

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