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Vietnam, US sign nuclear conversion agreement

VIETNAM: Vietnam has agreed to work with the United States to begin converting a nuclear research reactor to using low-enriched uranium fuel from highly-enriched uranium, state media said on Tuesday.

Vietnam’s Atomic Energy Commission also signed an agreement with the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to send any highly-enriched uranium back to Russia, where it was originally imported from, the reports and a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said.

The statement said U.S. and Vietnam government agencies “recently signed contracts to further enhance security at the Dalat Research Reactor and at three radiological facilities in Vietnam to protect materials that could be used for harmful purposes”.

It said the two contracts stem from last November’s state visit to Vietnam by U.S. President George W. Bush, the second visit by a U.S. President to Hanoi since the former war enemies established diplomatic relations in 1995.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will administer the project at Dalat, capital of south-central Lam Dong province and the other sites.

Vietnam, which signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1982, plans to start building a nuclear power plant in 2015 to help drive the energy-hungry economy.

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission says the country will need 2,000 megawatts to 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power from 2017, but does not want to enrich uranium on its soil.

International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei said on a visit to Hanoi in December that the communist-run government had involved the agency from the beginning of its nuclear power development.

Hanoi, Tuesday, Reuters

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