Vietnam consults Lightbridge on research reactor

17 October 2014

US-based Lightbridge Corp has extended its nuclear cooperation with Vietnam by agreeing to offer consultancy services for setting up a nuclear research centre, including a research reactor, in the country.

The company announced today that it had signed two separate agreements with the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VinAtom) and Power Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Company 1 (PECC1).

Under its agreement with VinAtom, Lightbridge is to provide consulting services related to the construction and operation of Vietnam's planned $500 million Atomic Energy Research Centre at Da Lat, including a nuclear research reactor.

Help from UK regulator

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said it is advising the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (VARANS) on a wide range of regulatory issues.

These include the proposed new atomic energy law, licensing frameworks, inspection capability, design assessment of new reactors and detailed approaches to nuclear safety analysis across a wide range of topics, including engineering, fault analysis and probabilistic safety assessments.

Lightbridge president and CEO Seth Grae said, "Our collaboration with VinAtom involves 24 specific activities, including design review and selection of nuclear research reactors, site selection and nuclear security protocols."

The five-year agreement also stipulates support for nuclear quality assurance; research reactor fuel selection; control room operations; safeguards, control and accounting of nuclear material; and related training programs.

Lightbridge has also signed a "teaming" agreement with Hanoi-based PECC1 for consulting services related to the construction and operation of the research reactor to be housed at the Atomic Energy Research Centre.

Grae said, "We are pleased and excited to work with Vietnam's preeminent energy engineering firm to establish the nation's nuclear laboratory and research reactor in accordance with the highest standards of safety, security and operational excellence."

Lightbridge said the financial terms of both agreements are "subject to further negotiation of the final scope of work."

Lightbridge's agreements with VinAtom and PECC1 are among the first facilitated by the recent US-Vietnam 123 agreement on nuclear cooperation, which came into force on 3 October. This agreement sets the terms for commercial nuclear trade, and research and technology exchanges.

In August, Lightbridge signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (VARANS) to develop the administrative, legal and regulatory infrastructure required to support Vietnam's nuclear power program.

Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom has agreed to build a nuclear technology and research centre with a new 15 MW research reactor at Da Lat, for operation from October 2018. It will be used for training staff for Vietnam's nuclear power program.

Vietnam's plans for nuclear power are well advanced. The country's Atomic Energy Law came into force in 2009 and intergovernmental agreements in place with Russia and Japan allow for the construction of its first two nuclear power plants, both in Ninh Thuan province. Construction work has yet to begin, although the first Russian-designed unit at Ninh Thuan I is pencilled in to begin operation by the end of 2020.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News