Hoang Anh Tuan, director general of the Viet Nam Atomic Energy Agency, talked with the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper about the treatment of nuclear waste in Viet Nam.
Can you tell us about the public reaction to the development of nuclear power in Viet Nam, especially those who are relocated and those who will live within a 25km radius around the nuclear power plants Ninh Thuan 1 and 2?
The projects are currently in the phase of compensation and site clearance, thus those who live within the plants' construction and fence surrounding the plants will have to move to other places.
The problem people are interested in now is the time, compensation policies, living conditions and related welfare policies rather than radiation safety issues.
Ninh Thuan Province has been assigned to settle issues relating to relocation and resettlement. These displaced people will receive compensation in estate, land for cultivation and livestock in accordance with the project's support policy.
The Prime Minister has issued policies to support the socio-economic development of Ninh Thuan Province, including aid for resettlement of residents of the two districts that house nuclear power plants. The overall idea is that people support the building of the nuclear projects and they are ready to participate in it.
Regarding radiation safety when the plant goes into operation, in principle, radiation will spread into the environment at a low level – below the permitted level. It is secured by a control system. There should be a response plan in case a nuclear incident occurs. The response plan is aimed at ensuring the safety not only for the plants but also for the surrounding environment; and the radiation does not exceed the allowed limit.
In an assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agencies (IAEA) on the abilities of a nation to develop nuclear power, Viet Nam scored 12 out of the 19 points. In your opinion, among the remaining points the country has not achieved, what is the most difficult one?
Viet Nam is implementing all the points of the infrastructure preparedness of IAEA. There is no concept of hardest point. The country is focusing on building and accomplishing legal framework for nuclear power; developing human resources not only for the operation of nuclear plants but also for the management at the central and local levels. It also sets up policies on the management of radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel.
Is it difficult to dispose radioactive waste and used fuel?
These issues have been included in the Law on Atomic Energy. In the future, the law will be amended for long-term management and safety of waste which include solutions and requirements of national radioactive waste management and used fuel.
These are important and long-term issues, and they may take hundreds of years.
Viet Nam does not only build nuclear power plants but also builds long-term facilities for storing radioactive waste generated by nuclear power. It requires a long-term policy.
International technology will be applied in the management of waste in the factory. Countries supplying nuclear technology are those who have already completed this process.
The waste, mostly low and intermediate level radioactive waste, should be brought out of nuclear plants for long-term storage. Viet Nam and Russia have signed an agreement that includes a provision for Moscow to take back used fuel for processing.
High-level waste accounts for only 1 per cent of all waste, while low and intermediate-level waste accounts for 99 per cent and will be handled in Viet Nam.
Has Viet Nam selected locations to bury and long-term storage of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste?
Viet Nam plans to choose two locations in the central region, possibly in Ninh Thuan and other provinces for long-term storage of low and intermediate-level radioactive waste. This waste contains radioactive materials at a level which is not considered harmful to people or the surrounding environment so they are suitable for shallow or deep land burial.
The Ministry of Construction will create a plan for this issue in the near future. It's important to find places to ensure good geological conditions which are not near farming and urban areas and that no radiation penetrates the surrounding environment.
There are several locations in Viet Nam that are convenient for this activity. We have been studying the application of bentonite (available in Lam Dong) as material for building a landfill facility for low and intermediate-level waste material to reduce costs.
Are foreign partners responsible for disposal of nuclear waste?
The disposal of radioactive waste in nuclear power plants will be conducted by the plants' management units with the application of imported high technology. A special unit will be set up for collecting waste once it is brought out of the factory. — VNS