|Fig. 1: Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Plant Planned Site. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
On November 22, 2016, Vietnam's National Assembly voted to halt plans for constructing two nuclear power plants. The country had previously agreed to partner with companies Japan Atomic Power and Rosatam from Japan and Russia, respectively, for a multi-billion dollar construction operation.  Moreover, construction had been planned for sites in Ninh Thuan province (pictured right) since government approval in 2009. 
Safety and economic concerns were chief reasons for abandoning nuclear plans.  Since 2009, estimated investment in the construction of the plants had doubled to almost 400 trillion dong. In addition, Vietnam's economic concerns about building nuclear power plants centered around changing demand. Projected growth in Vietnam's annual power demand from 2016 and 2020 had dropped from 20 to 11 percent.  The forecast through 2030 was even lower at 7-8 percent.  With mounting public debt, Vietnam was already in dire fiscal straits, and increased costs and lower projected demand left the government with little choice but to halt the plans. In addition, recent events in the country only added to concerns about safety and environmental protection.  "The project could also pose an environmental threat, and Vietnam cannot afford to risk another disaster after a toxic industrial leak triggered mass fish deaths earlier this year," Greenpeace Regional Campaign Coordinator Arif Fiyanto said. The toxic leak covered over 125 miles, killed thousands of fish, and left many without jobs, marking the country's worst environmental disaster. 
Environmental groups like Greenpeace have championed the decision.  However, halting the plans provides a blow Vietnam, Japan, and Russia. No nuclear energy means Vietnam will keep using coal, which has caused a pollution problem in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.  Such a continued heavy reliance on coal energy means such pollution will not be alleviated. In addition, the loss of business is a financial blow to Russia and Japan. However, Rosatom stated its desire to support peaceful nuclear energy in Vietnam. The Russian company will do so by helping develop nuclear technologies and infrastructure in Vietnam. 
While the decision to stop plans impacts other countries, Vietnam will take the blunt of the consequences. Ultimately, the goal of implementing nuclear energy is to serve the people of the country with the plants. Pollution levels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have been documented at approximately 80 micrograms per cubic meter, four times above the guideline set by the World Health Organization.  With Vietnam backing out of plans, its civilians will not receive the benefits of nuclear power and pollution will remain an issue. Lastly, while growth in demand was less than projected, it still was positive, meaning Vietnam will still eventually need to explore other sources of power. Ultimately, if concerns about safety can be assuaged and the plans made economically feasible, the long - term prospects of the nation will benefit if the government is able re-open nuclear plans in the future.
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 M. Nguyen and H. Binh Minh, "Vietnam Abandons Plan For First Nuclear Power Plants," Reuters, 22 Nov 16.
 T. Fuller, "Air Pollution Fast Becoming an Issue in Booming Vietnam," New York Times, 6 Jul 07.