Why is climate-conscious Vietnam choosing coal over nuclear?

Vietnam’s decision to abandon its nascent nuclear power programme and turn back to cheaper, dirtier, coal says much about where the nation thought it was headed – and about where it has ended up. The move last month was a blow for the climate conscious and highlights how the nation no longer has the economy to justify the fuel consumption predictions it once did. And it marks how seriously the government now takes public anger over pollution. Hanoi-based Dan Tri News reported simply that the legislative National Assembly had cancelled the Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Plant project due to fears over “rising public debts” and “environmental risks after the Formosa case” (when a Taiwanese steel plant leaked toxic waste water into the sea, killing 100 tonnes of fish and prompting protests and ongoing public anger). Some experts suggest the government’s decision was more about economics than environment, especially given its solution is to turn to coal. Former US diplomat David Brown, who writes regularly on Vietnam, said there was nothing to link the move from nuclear with the Taiwan incident. He said current nuclear power technology was “inherently safe” and that Hanoi was instead daunted by “the high front-end cost of building nuclear power plants”.

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