US, Vietnam sign civil nuclear deal

US, Vietnam sign civil nuclear deal
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei - The United States signed a civilian nuclear pact with Vietnam on Thursday under which Hanoi committed not to produce ingredients for atomic weapons, US officials said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced the deal, known as the "123 agreement" on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Brunei.

The agreement, which could potentially lead to future sales of US nuclear reactors in Vietnam, "will create numerous opportunities for our businesses between our two countries", Kerry said.

Vietnam's market for nuclear power - already the second largest in East Asia after China - is expected to grow to US$50 billion (S$62.7 billion) by 2030, he added.

Under the agreement Vietnam has pledged "not to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies, equipment, and processing", a senior US administration official told reporters.

Once the deal has been approved by US President Barack Obama, it will be subject to a 90 day review by the US Congress. If there is no action by lawmakers, the bill will go into force.

Vietnam faces energy shortages and is pursuing nuclear energy, officials have said, with a plan that calls for the first nuclear power plant to be in commercial operation by 2020.

The country wants nuclear energy to provide more than 10 per cent of its total power generation needs by 2030.

The communist-ruled nation already has a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia.

Despite Hanoi's determination to pursue nuclear power, there has been domestic opposition with many voicing fears that the locations selected for the plants make them vulnerable to earthquakes or tsunamis.

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