The United States and Vietnam have signed an agreement that will provide the foundation for the development of peaceful nuclear power in Vietnam. "This is an important moment in our bilateral relations," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak. "This memorandum of understanding is a key step in furtherance of our common non-proliferation goals, and a significant building block in the development of Vietnam's peaceful, civilian nuclear power program."
Building on several years of ongoing cooperation, the new agreement addresses nuclear safety, security, and non-proliferation issues. It is also a stepping stone towards a legally binding government-to-government Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy Agreement, which would allow even broader and deeper nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam and would facilitate the participation of U.S. companies in the Vietnamese nuclear sector. "Vietnam," Ambassador Michalak said, "has ambitious plans to develop nuclear power to meet its rapidly growing energy needs." And U.S. companies, he said, "can provide the most efficient technology, the most advanced equipment, and the most comprehensive engineering services available."
Vietnam's demand for power is expected to grow by sixteen percent a year until 2015, according to government projections. And the country's booming economy has made it difficult for supply to keep up with demand. Last November, Vietnam's national assembly approved construction of two nuclear power plants. The U.S. believes that Vietnam has demonstrated its commitment to the responsible expansion of nuclear power by developing the infrastructure needed to oversee the deployment of its new power plants over the coming decades.
President Barack Obama has signaled his commitment to nuclear security by announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years and by convening a Nuclear Security Summit in April. At President Obama's invitation, a Vietnamese delegation, led by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, will join the summit. In that spirit, said Ambassador Michalak, the U.S. hopes that "Vietnam builds on its achievements and implements all relevant international non-proliferation agreements, so that it can become a model for countries seeking to develop civilian nuclear power."