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Sustainable energy

for Vietnam
IS NUCLEAR POWER A VIABLE OPTION?
Hieu Nguyen
1/9/2014

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Contents
INTRODUCTION.................................................................................................................................2
Background and context of energy sector in Vietnam........................................................................3
Aims, Objectives and Limitations......................................................................................................5
Contents overview.............................................................................................................................6
LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................................7
Introduction.......................................................................................................................................7
Historical evolution of sustainable development concept..................................................................7
Environmental sustainability of nuclear power................................................................................11
Nuclear power as a role in sustainable development........................................................................11
Future prospect of nuclear power.....................................................................................................11
Is nuclear a truly sustainable energy source.....................................................................................11
Requirements for sustainable nuclear power....................................................................................11
Drivers and barriers for nuclear in Vietnam.....................................................................................11
NUCLEAR POWER DETAILS..........................................................................................................13
SUSTAINABILITY ANALYSIS OF VIETNAMESE NUCLEAR PROJECT....................................15
EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS FROM SUSTAINABILITY PERSPECTIVE..........16
DISCUSSION.....................................................................................................................................17
CONCLUSION...................................................................................................................................18
BIBLIOGRAPHY...............................................................................................................................19
APPENDICES.....................................................................................................................................22

INTRODUCTION

Energy is a pre-requisite factor for development. There are imperatives to alleviate poverty
and starvation, and industrialization needs in developing countries. Standard living standard must be
raised considerably for an ever-growing population. The implication of these obvious assertions on
global energy usage is enormous. However, at the dawn of the 21 st century, humankind is facing a
predicament that might impede its progress to betterment.
In his book Out of gas (2004), Caltech physicist David Goodstein described an potential
crisis for human race, namely The End of the Age of Oil, whereby he predicted that by 2015, the
amount of oil that can be cheaply extracted will fail to meet the increasing demand of the world,
which seems to be a consensus reached by notable researchers and analysts worldwide (Greene et al,
2007; Bentley, 2002; Murray and King, 2012; Sorrell et al, 2012; Snowden et al 2010; Hughes and
Rudolph, 2011). While conventional oil (crude oil, condensate and natural gas liquid oil) still
currently accounts for over 97% of the global oil production (Sorrell, et al., 2012), it is acknowledged
by the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2010) that the peak point of oil production has come to
pass. Except for Middle-East countries, most of the conventional fossil minerals in many developed
and developing nations are depleting at a staggering rate to sustain the increasing demands for
economic growth. Despite technological advancement in exploiting unconventional oil sources like
shale oil or sand oil as well as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, they will not
be able to fill in the gap in the timescale required (Aleklett, et al., 2010).
Furthermore, both the natural world and humanity are facing a profound threat of global
warming due to heavy industrialized activities. There is an apparent link between the energy
consumption and its effect on the temperature rise of the Earth. For example, coal, one the primary
source of energy due to its abundance and low cost, accounted for nearly 50% of the worlds
electricity, is also the most polluting source. A typical coal plant produces 3.5 million tons of carbon
dioxide (CO2) annually (UCSUSA, 2012). Burning coal, along other fossil fuels, is also responsible

for the emission of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), and the
cause of smog, acid rain and severe air pollution. Numerous nations are experiencing detrimental
damages to the environment in exchange for a fast economic growth. It is concluded from several
studies that the United States and other industrialized nations must cut down their carbon emission by
80 percent by mid-century to avoid stark climate change (Gronlund, et al., 2007). In a foreseeable
future, the world will have to operate within a carbon-constraint, rising prices of fossil fuel
environment, and all the while, must try to reduce toxic emission into the atmosphere; which
stimulates a search for a more efficient, and sustainable power production alternative.

Background and context of energy sector in Vietnam


Ever since the economic reform in 1986, Vietnam has seen a noticeable socio-economic
progress. The transition began by switching from a centrally-planned to market-orientated economy,
followed by the devaluation of the Vietnamese currency (VND) and the decontrol of most prices. In
1994, when the embargo of the US was lifted, Vietnam has successfully obtained membership of
ASEAN, APEC and WTO in the years 1995, 1998 and 2007, respectively (Do & Sharma, 2011). As a
result, Vietnam has become a promising destination for foreign investors, attracting a large inflow of
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), thanks to a young population, political stability, low labour costs
and loose operational standards. According to the World Energy Outlook report by IEA in 2008, in the
past fifteen years, Vietnam has achieved an annual growth rate higher than any other countries in the
ASEAN. In this growing economy, energy accounts for approximately one fourth of the countrys
foreign incomes (General Statistic Office of Vietnam, 2008). This role is likely to become even more
important in achieving the GDP target of 7% in 2015, set by the Vietnamese Prime Minister in 2011
(PMVN, 2011).
The power sector in Vietnam is governed by The Electricity of Vietnam (EVN), a wholly
state-owned company. At the moment, Vietnams energy supply is dominated by oil and coal,
representing 39.7 and 33.9 percent respectively (Bao, 2013), followed by natural gas (19.5 percent)

and hydro (5.8 percent). Coal is mainly used for industry sector, while gas is utilized for electricity
generation. As of 2013, the total electricity production in Vietnam is about 117 GWh (Mecometer,
2013), from which thermal source (oil, coal, natural gas) accounts for 70.1 percent, and the rest is
from hydropower (Bao, 2013). Although the country is endowed with a substantial indigenous
resources for power generation, including 3390 million tons of proven recoverable reserved coal, 600
million cubic meters of reserved crude oil, 700 million cubic meters of reserved natural gas (Bao,
2013; EIA, 2013) and 2360 rivers of more than 10 kilo meters long with theoretical capacity of 300
billion kWh per annum (Hoach, n.d.), it is projected that the demand will soon surpass the demand.
Despite being a net exporter of crude oil, Vietnam has become a net importer of petroleum product
since 2004 (EIA, 2013). Driven by escalated heavy industrial load, increased access to electricity and
population growth, Vietnam would become a net energy importer as soon as 2015 to sustain the socioeconomic development (Do & Sharma, 2011). This situation will place the nation into a position of
extreme vulnerability to oil price volatility, which will potentially undergo a significant price rise in
the near future (Trung & Vinh, 2011).
Hydropower is also a popular method to generate energy in Vietnam, especially in the
Northern region. Taking advantage of the CDM scheme, there are hydropower station in Vietnam,
which accounted for of the total electricity in the whole country. However, this form of energy is
unreliable due to its dependency on weather. Furthermore, in a recent research, it is found that,
contrary to popular belief, hydropower does contribute to global warming
Thus, it is essential for a transformation in the way energy is produced and consumed. The
urgency of the situation required careful examination of both existing and potential options, and
nuclear power is considered as a promising solution for both of the aforementioned issues. Nuclear
power is not a new method to produce electricity per se, in face, the Vietnams government has been
researching into the potential of nuclear power as early as mid-1990s. However, its progress through
the course of history has been jeopardized by incidents that endanger humans safety and security, for
instance Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents, and also by the fear that it will be utilized for the
wrong purposes. Nevertheless, nuclear power possesses key advantages over fossil-derived power

which possibly proves to be the key for the worlds survival. Nuclear power is more energy intensive
and reliable that any of the existing renewable power sources at the moment, and can rival that of coal
power. In addition, it is environmentally friendly in a way that it does not produce CO 2 during
operation, and emissions in nuclear fuel cycle and plant construction are modest. On the downside,
analysts are wary that nuclear power might go down the same route and face the same crisis as fossil
fuel. The question of waste fuel disposal and safety measures are also left unanswered. Most of all,
public perception is negative towards nuclear power and this could be the most difficult barrier for
nuclear power to cross.

Aims, Objectives and Limitations


This thesis attempts to analyse the sustainability and viability of implementing nuclear power
into Vietnams energy market. As a soaring economy in the South-East region of Asia, the Vietnamese
government is trying to free itself from political constraints due to energy importation and is turning
to nuclear power to provide energy security and support its economic growth. Many neighbouring
countries are expecting to follow this example. Two nuclear plants are already commissioned to be
built in Vietnam in the next 10 years in partnership with Japan and Russia. The introduction of said
plants will definitely have significant impacts on the environmental, social and economic aspects in
the surrounding area. By providing information about the technology that will be employed, the
political background and supporting policies, as well as a preliminary environmental assessment and
comparisons with other alternative energy generation, this work is hoped to be of benefits to those
who are interested in, want to invest in, or do sustainability analysis on nuclear plant in Vietnam or
other countries.
The limitations of this work come from the reliability and accuracy of data from numerous
sources. The difficulty in getting the most updated information is also one of the main drawbacks.
Since the construction of the nuclear plant is still in progress, and there are worries of nuclear
proliferation and security, most of the reports and papers regarding this matter are kept classified by

the government. Hence, this work only hopes to provide general overview and analysis of the
problem, and acts as a building brick for future attempts.

Contents overview
The thesis will be divided into six distinguish chapters. The first chapter is this introduction,
which sets the context and provides background information and justification for carrying out the
work. The second chapter will be a literature review, which will assess the sustainability of nuclear
power as well as providing the framework and experiences from other countries will be presented.
The third chapter deals with the technology of nuclear power generation, followed by a preliminary
environmental impact assessment of nuclear plant in Vietnam in the fourth chapter. The fifth chapter
gives comprehensive comparisons of nuclear power with other method of energy generation in
Vietnam, and the final chapter will a discussion to answer the topic question, and offer
recommendations for further improvement.

LITERATURE REVIEW
Introduction

Ever since the Industrial Revolution in 1760, anthropogenic impacts on the environment have
increased steeply. These environmental stresses such as acid rains, water and air pollution, ozone
depletion, climate change, deforestation and biodiversity losses have taken a turn from bad to worse in
a surprisingly short period of time. The causes of these impacts are numerous; however, the root lies
in the production and uses of energy by human, both directly and indirectly. For example, burning
fossil fuels for electricity and transportation, agricultural activities or political conflicts between
countries for scarce resources. All activities contribute to the degradation of world we are living in.
Recognizing this, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, 2002,
placed energy at the centre in the context of sustainable development. The challenges of the energy
sector in achieving sustainable development involved both spatial and temporal dimensions, including
uneven distribution of resources, impacts of Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste across
generations. As such, it is impossible to discuss future energy options without paying attention to
sustainability. It is the intention of this literature review to explore if nuclear energy is truly a
sustainable energy source. Furthermore, it is also deemed appropriate to review the literature on the
underlying concept of sustainable development.

Historical evolution of sustainable development concept

Sustainable development started to materialize from post-war environmental movements


which recognized the negative impacts on environments and communities from the unchecked
economic development. Sustainable development is a concept which attempts to bridge the gap
between the finite carrying capacity of Earth with political, economic, social and environmental

challenges faced by humanity. Its most well-known definition comes from the so-called Brundtlands
report in 1987:
...to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future
generations to meet their own needs. (Report of World Commission on Environmental and
Development: Our Common Future, 1987).
The WCED report was a result of global partnership, which marked a major political turning
point for the sustainable development. However, contrary to popular belief, it was neither the first to
introduce the concept nor the end of the development process. As with any conceptual development,
there were significant conceptual precursors that led to Brundtlands definition, which in turn was
followed by other conceptualization efforts.
The idea of sustainable development originated from a terminology in the profession of
forestry, sustained yield, which made its first appearance in print as early as 1713 in the book
Sylvicultura oeconomica, written by Hanns Carl von Carlowitz (Grober, 2007). Considered a
doctrine by foresters, sustained yield is a stewardship concept which seeks to maintain productivity
in perpetuity. A classic definition of the concept came from American forestry expert William A.
Deurr (1968):
To fulfil our obligations to our descendants and to stabilize our communities, each
generation should sustain its resources at a high level and hand them along undiminished. The
sustained yield of timber is an aspect of mans most fundamental need: to sustain life itself. (Smith
and Hopkinson, 2012, page 69).
This definition by Deurr was not too far off from Brundtlands reports definition.
More than two centuries later, sustainable development started to gain attention and
popularity from notable reports and books such as Brown (1981), Clark and Munn (1986),
IUCN/UNEP/WWF/FAO/UNESCO (1980) and Brundtlands report (1987), which addressed and
investigated the concerns about the severe degradation of the environment due to industrialization and

economic development. These can be seen as a logical extension of arguments from environmental
literature from late 1940s until early 1980s. Key works that highlight this trend of thinking are
Fairfield Osborns Our plundered planet (1948), Rachel Carsons Silent spring (1962), Garret Hardins
Tragedy of the Commons (1968), Paul Ehrlichs The population bomb (1968), and the Club of
Romes Limit to Growth report (1972).
The year 1972 saw several milestones in the evolution of sustainable development. In March
1972, the Club of Romes report, Limit to Growth was published, which introduced the term
sustainable into political language for the first time (Grober, 2007). The report, compiled by a group
of eminent scientists, emphasized the output state of equilibrium:
We are searching for a model output that represents a world system that is: 1.
sustainable without sudden and uncontrolled collapse; and 2. capable of satisfying the basic
material requirements of all of its people. (Limits to growth, Club of Rome, 1972)
Another major step forward for sustainable development is the UN Conference on Human
Environment, which was held in Stockholm, also in 1972. Even though the concept was not
established explicitly, the conference was adamant about the importance of environmental
management and assessment and called for the need to consider environmental and developmental
issues concurrently (Mebratu, 1998).
In 1976, in an address in London, the then Executive Director of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), Mostafa Tolba, commented that the past development patterns had
been unsustainable and argued for a new kind of development, which integrated environmental
management principles to meet basic human needs while staying within the environmental potentials
and constraints (Tolba, 1976). Tolbas arguments have characterized a more social-oriented views in
literature, which looked beyond short-term environmental consequences and concentrated on
institutional changes required for society to survive indefinitely without surpassing the ecological
limits (Robinson, 2004).

However, in 1987, the work of the WCED, or Brundtlands report, led to a slightly different
direction, which emphasized more on socio-political and distributional issues and less on drastic
behaviours and priorities changes (Robinson, 2004). In the definition mentioned above, the
Brundtlands report contained two key entwined concepts: first was the concept of needs, especially
the needs of the worlds poor, where utmost priorities should be given. The report argued that the
issues of environmental sustainability and human development and poverty must be resolved
simultaneously if true sustainable development was to be achieved. Second was the idea of limitations
in the existing state of technology and social organization on the ability of the environment to meet
present and future needs. In addition, the Brundtlands report also embraced the element of time, a
synthesizing factor in sustainability, which it picked up from the earlier World Conservation Strategy
by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1980 (Mebratu, 1998).
Despite the continual reference to sustainable development, the report by the WCED never
clearly stated any operational principles or by which way such concept can be achieved. Furthermore,
the WCEDs definition was vague and can be open to interpretation, which was advantageous at first
to gain wide acceptance around the global, but has gradually become a breeding ground for
disagreement (Daly, 1996). Nevertheless, WCEDs report has successfully popularised the term
sustainable development and turned it into the paradigm of development, embraced by nearly all
governments, organizations and Development Banks. It has fuelled innumerable efforts globally to
properly define the concept and produce operational principles so that development process can be
inherently sustainable. Steadily, the question was no longer Can economic development and
environmental protection concurrently exist? but How can sustainable development be achieved?

A brief analysis of sustainable development concept and practice


Post-1987, sustainable development has become popular and pervasive. It has constantly
made appearances as theme for intellectual conferences, slogans for environmental activists, and
watchwords for international aid agencies. So far, however, literatures surrounding the concept has

lacked consistencies and little consensus exists regarding its definition and operationalization
(references). As put by Tolba (1984):
(Sustainable development) has become an article of faith, a shibboleth; often used, but little
explained (Tolba, 1984)
Generally literature on sustainable development is divided into ranges of specialized
categories such as feminism, environmental politics, environmental economics and global economy
perspective (Beresford & Tran, 2004). For a more completed review, Mebratu (1998) provided a
useful categorization of definitions on sustainable development, which was divided into three
categories: 1) the institutional version, 2) the ideological version and 3) the academic version.
While pointed out that several advantages of the concept stemmed from its general vagueness,
such as preventing exclusion and compromises of people with different viewpoints, Lele (1991)
argued that a firm theoretical and analytical frameworks as well as conceptual clarity are required in
order to assess the effectiveness of strategic implementation and encourage a fruitful debate for the
conceptual development.
As a matter of fact, debate about translating the concept of sustainable development into
quantifiable goals and objectives often plummeted into definitional and interpretational conflicts.
According to Mebratu (1998), different expressions of the concept tend to reflect the political and
philosophical position of those who is proposing rather than an objective scientific definition. This
statement was agreed by Soderbaum (2000), who argued that the ongoing discussions about
sustainable development is very much an ideological, interest-based debate, whereby the disputes
does not necessarily rest on the contents but also on different interests and needs represented by
different industrial sectors. As a result, there are as many as about 400 definitions of sustainable
development in literature (Jacobs, 1995, as cited in Ciegis, et al, 2009), geared towards separate
sectors, such as environmental, economics or civilization, or emphasized on managerial, technical or
political aspects of decision-makings (Ciegis, et al., 2009). Furthermore, Robinson (2004) expressed

his concerns about how the lack of definite interpretation of the concept might be exploited for
political purposes.
In addition, it is not just the way the concept is interpreted is confusing; the very idea of
sustainable development is doubtful and contestable. On the one hand, works of international aid
agencies such as WCED have been advocating for the necessity of massive economic growth to
finance the means to address environmental problems. In the WCEDs report, Mrs. Brundtland has
emphasized that the worlds economy must grow 5-10-fold in order to eradicate poverty and
sanitation issues in less privileged countries, since only when humans basic needs are satisfied that
they stop relying on destroying the environment for short-term survival. This implies the inextricable
links of economic, environment and society. On the other hand, because of this notion, many have
branded the concept as an oxymoron and self-contradictory (Meppem & Gill, 1998). Researchers such
as Cocks (1994) and Flannery (2002) pointed out the human population has already exceeded the
carrying capacity of the Earth, while Gibson (1991) criticised that the concept fosters delusions and
diverts attention away from the actual problems.
Ultimately, it must be realized that sustainable development is a very complex and dynamic
process, which required a series of decisions to be made across generations, at different regions
around the globe, within different levels of authorities, cultural values, changing interests and socioeconomic goals which are rarely shared by all members. All three dimensions of sustainable
development must be considered concurrently, with an emphasis placed on social issues, since poverty
is both the cause and effect of environmental degradation. Since economic progression path will most
likely continue to be pursued to resolve developmental issues in less-developed countries, policy
reforms that stress on alternative uses of natural resources through managerial procedures and
technologies will be needed, though the effectiveness of those on reducing environmental degradation
still remains to be seen. Hence, many policy-makers, academics and practitioners have accepted the
concept for its morality and practical intentions and are prepared to work within its framework as
guiding principles; rather than seeking a rigor definition to be imposed upon (Scottish Executive
Social Research, 2006).

In Brundtlands report, aside from the brief fundamental objective, the commission was much
more elaborated about its operational objectives of sustainable development. The nine critical
objectives are:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
8)
9)

Revive growth
Changing the quality of growth
Meeting essential needs for jobs, food, energy, water and sanitation
Ensuring a sustainable level of population
Conserving and enhancing the resource base
Reorienting technology and managing risks
Merging environment and economics to decision-making
Reorienting international economic relations
Making development more participatory (WCED report, 1987, as cited in Lele, 1991)

The meeting the present needs objective in the fundamental statement can be assumed to be
correspondent to the first and third goals, while the maintenance of environmental and social basis for
future generations can be operationalized through the remaining goals. However, difficulties arise
when these operational goals are put into practice.
The integration of environmental and social factors into developmental planning and projects
required attentions at national level from early stages. Policy-makers should include appropriate
concerns in key areas such as land use, industrial location and community development and wellbeing, as well as introducing an overall framework to encompass individual infrastructural plannings
to fit into a common goal. However, projects are often discrete in terms of time period, targets and
resources. Too often, economic achievements are in favour over environmental and social concerns.
Negative impacts on surrounding communities and the environment are not made known to public
until later stages, when it was already too late and the impacts can only be partially mitigated. It is
important that both negative and positive impacts in a project are presented from initial planning stage
so as to allow comparison between alternatives and encourage public participation (United Nations
Environment Programme, 1981).
Another difficulty which has been getting enormous devotion from literature is the
sustainability indicators. The past decades have seen an explosion in attempts to apply environmental,

economic and social indicators in various jurisdictions, although they are not welcomed by everyone.
Meppem and Gill (1998) expressed their arguments, which stated:
The objective of sustainability is not to win or lose and the intention is not to arrive at a
particular pointSuccess is determined retrospectively, so the emphasis in planning should be on
process and collectively considered, context-related progress rather than on achieving remote
targets. (Meppem & Gill, 1998).
Bell and Morse (2005) agreed with this wretched practice in comparison with its popular
theory, and argued that the impact of this has transformed sustainability into a linear, one-dimensional
and projectified concept, where only one components of a system is considered, important perhaps
to some people, to make the project more credible. Robinson (2004) branded sustainability practice
fake greenery or cosmetic environmentalism. He claimed that there is no way to evaluate if a
product is sustainable due to lack of criteria and incompatibility of measuring indicators, and that the
green movement in labelling and certification for products and services are due to public and nongovernmental organizations (NGO) pressures.
Nevertheless, indicators are essential in policy-making to convey quantified goals and
objectives, although they are subjective by nature to a certain extent, and can vary depending on
preferences and interests of individual, corporates or nations. In the Agenda 21, it was suggested that
commonly used indicators like GDP or pollution level are insufficient in evaluating the relations
between development and environment (Jenicek, 2013). Since then, the amount of useful indicators
has grown exponentially. Dahl (2012) concluded after undertaking studies about practices of
sustainability reporting at national level worldwide that indicators are most effective when they are
adapted to a target audience, and should be selected in consultation with the users. He also realized
the needs for individual and international-level indicators. However, Dourojeanni (1997) reasoned
that since there are no universal formulae or common denominators exist, three dimensions of
sustainable development are measured using incompatible parameters, and thus, it would not be
possible to interlink three objectives into a single plane.

Dealing with sustainable development means embracing ambiguity and uncertainty since
there will be no clear-cut answer to every problems. There are also concerns over the absence of
indicators signified progress and transition, which would make policy and management intervention
much more effective (Dahl, 2012). This indicates an inadequacy in knowledge, expertise, data and
information required in developing countries to efficiently formulate and implement sustainable
development policies in general and sustainable energy in particular. Research, expert training and
infrastructure development should be given priorities and funded, keeping in mind the environmental
and social problems that are likely to be faced in nuclear power projects. Developing nations should
always develop their objectives and agenda based on their own economic capacities and technical and
cultural context.
Technological advancement -> link to nuclear energy, why Vietnam resort to it on its way to
achieve sustainable development.

Environmental sustainability of nuclear power


Nuclear power as a role in sustainable development
Future prospect of nuclear power
Is nuclear a truly sustainable energy source
Requirements for sustainable nuclear power
Drivers and barriers for nuclear in Vietnam

NUCLEAR POWER DETAILS

Environmental damages causes by energy-related activities are partly due to the loose legislation and
corruption. Although nuclear power is theoretically CO2-free, the construction, transportation and
operation of the plant will constitute to.

SUSTAINABILITY ANALYSIS OF VIETNAMESE NUCLEAR


PROJECT

EVALUATION OF ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS FROM


SUSTAINABILITY PERSPECTIVE

DISCUSSION

CONCLUSION

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