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CIVIL NUCLEAR
Japan, India sign controversial civil nuclear deal
By Hiroshi HIYAMA
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 11, 2016


Vietnam to scrap planned nuclear plants: state media
Hanoi (AFP) Nov 11, 2016 - Vietnam is scrapping plans to build two nuclear power plants over soaring costs and safety concerns, state media reported Friday.

The communist nation approved plans to build the plants in 2009 in Ninh Thuan province with an eye towards easing energy shortages brought about by its rapidly industrialising economy.

They were slated to have a capacity of 4,000 megawatts, developed with assistance from Russia's Rosatom and a Japanese consortium, and would have been the first nuclear plants in Southeast Asia.

But state-run media reported that the government has asked Vietnam's rubber stamp parliament, the National Assembly, to suspend the projects.

"The total investment has risen too high," Le Hong Tinh, deputy head of Vietnam's Commission of Science, Technology and Environment, was quoted as saying by the Tien Phong newspaper.

He said the proposed cost for both plants had doubled since 2009 to an estimated $18 billion as the government sought more advanced technology following Japan's deadly Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Tinh added that the projects could also pose an environmental threat and said the nation could not afford to risk another disaster after a toxic industrial leak triggered mass fish deaths earlier this year.

The leak ravaged local fishing economies and was pinned on a steel plant in the area run by the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa.

"After the Formosa accident, we are paying more attention to risk and safety factors... we need to be more prudent. It is time and necessary for us to stop," he said.

The plants' proximity to island chains in the disputed South China Sea, most of which is claimed by Beijing, was an additional concern, he said.

Vietnam has said it will buy power from neighbouring countries and is also looking to boost its own energy production.

The country of 93 million relies mostly on coal and hydropower but has said it wants to increase renewable energy production in the next 15 years.

This week it announced a $2.2-billion deal with Ireland's Mainstream Renewable Power to build three wind farms in the country.

Japan and India signed a controversial civil nuclear deal on Friday that will allow Japanese companies to export atomic technology to the Asian giant as the two countries deepen economic and security ties.

The pact signed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi is Japan's first with a nation that has not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

The treaty bans nations other than the five permanent members of the UN Security Council from developing and possessing nuclear weapons.

Japan, the victim of US atomic bombings in the final days of World War II, had long shunned civil nuclear cooperation with energy-starved India over the NPT issue.

But it has softened its stance as it competes for lucrative deals and steps up strategic cooperation with New Delhi in the face of China's expanding economic and military presence in the region.

"The agreement is a legal framework to ensure India acts responsibly for the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Abe told reporters with Modi at his side.

A Japanese official told reporters that the two nations have agreed Japan can cease cooperation if India resumes nuclear testing.

"Today's signing of the agreement for cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy marks a historic step in our engagement to build a clean energy partnership," Modi said.

Besides the US and Japan, India also has similar deals with France and Australia.

The Asian allies have stepped up cooperation in recent years, signing agreements last December on the transfer of defence equipment and technology and on exchanging classified military information.

The nuclear deal comes against the backdrop of growing unease over China's expanding role in the region.

India has a longstanding territorial dispute with China, and troops from the two countries engaged in a major stand-off at the border in 2014.

Tokyo has its own spat with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea, and is increasingly vocal about its rival's ambitions to control almost the whole of the South China Sea.

Modi visited Japan in August 2014 on his first bilateral trip outside South Asia, months after coming to power.

Subsequently Abe paid a two-day visit to India last December.

The Indian leader will wind up his trip in the city of Kobe on Saturday as he and Abe visit a plant that manufactures high speed bullet trains.


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