HANOI, Feb 9, 2010 - Vietnam has decided to award Russia's state atomic energy firm a contract to build the country's first nuclear power plant, sources said on Tuesday.
''There is a decision in principle... We have to see if it comes to fruition,'' an industry source told AFP.
''It appears that the Russians pushed for it in the context of a broader strategic agreement.''
The contract will go to Rosatom, which state-owned Vietnam Electricity (EVN) has recommended conduct a feasibility study of the nuclear project's first phase, Japanese newspaper The Nikkei said in a Tuesday report, citing multiple sources.
A Japanese public-private partnership had been hoping to secure the order, it said.
A source at Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade confirmed The Nikkei report for AFP but a Russian embassy official said there was no official comment.
The first phase would involve 2,000 Megawatts, the sources said.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to approve the proposal soon, The Nikkei added.
During a visit to Moscow in December, EVN and Rosatom signed a memorandum of cooperation.
At the time, Dung said without elaborating that Vietnam had officially invited Russia ''to cooperate in the building of the first atomic energy plant in Vietnam''.
That memorandum came alongside Hanoi's agreement to buy Russian-made submarines and aircraft, in a deal analysts said aimed to bolster Vietnam's claims against China over potentially resource-rich islands in the South China Sea.
China, France and to a lesser extent South Korea and the United States had also shown interest in Vietnam's nuclear project.
In November Vietnam's communist-dominated parliament approved building the country's first nuclear power stations. Initial government plans call for four reactors, with a total capacity of 4,000 Megawatts, at least one of which should be operational from 2020.
Critics objected that Vietnam lacks qualified workers for the plants, legislation was not adequately developed, and there were holes in the planned security arrangements.
Vietnam is rapidly modernising with average energy demand growing at about 10 percent per year, authorities say.