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NEWS UPDATES 28 February 2010

Hatoyama to help Japanese firms’ plan to build- N-plant in Vietnam

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Japanese firms seeking to win a nuclear power plant construction bid in Vietnam will get a boost from Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama this week in the form of a personal letter by the prime minister to his Vietnamese counterpart, according to sources, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Japanese firms are vying for an estimated total of 1 trillion yen worth of the project in Vietnam, which would include 700 billion yen in construction work, with the rest for subsequent maintenance and energy supply services.

Late last year a bid by a consortium of Japanese and U.S. firms that included Hitachi Ltd. lost to a South Korean consortium to build one of the world's biggest nuclear power projects for the United Arab Emirates. With this loss still a recent memory, Hatoyama considered the government's help necessary in order to land the Vietnam contract.

International competition for winning nuclear power project deals, mostly in emerging economies, has intensified in recent years. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak played a leading role in helping South Korean firms win the lucrative UAE deal.

In his letter, Hatoyama asks Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to start as early as possible negotiations to strike a bilateral contract designed to smoothly transfer nuclear power technology. The letter also says the Japanese government will cooperate with private firms on the project.

The government plans to jointly set up a new company with private firms including Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. to research how to establish nuclear power plant operations overseas.

After weighing Hanoi's reaction, Hatoyama wants to initiate talks by phone with his Vietnamese counterpart and dispatch a special envoy to Vietnam.

Tokyo is hoping the consortium can secure contracts to build two nuclear power plants in Ninh Thuan Province, in southern Vietnam. Sources said a Russian consortium might have won a bid to build two other power plants in the province in an earlier project, and that Japan is facing stiff competition with France and other countries for the upcoming bid.

A Japanese government source said the Russian government had possibly promised military assistance in return for landing the earlier bid.

Japanese private firms have long urged the government to cooperate with them in winning nuclear power plant projects in emerging Asian economies because the competition from overseas firms has come with the backing of their respective governments.

The government hopes that winning the bidding could in turn boost the Japanese economy.

A number of nations mainly in Southeast Asia and the Middle East have begun nuclear energy projects. The United Arab Emirates and Jordan plan to start operations on their first nuclear power stations in 2017, and Vietnam and Thailand plan for operations by 2020.

A total of about 24 trillion yen in nuclear power plant projects is projected through to 2025. Main bidders include firms from Japan, France, Russia, South Korea and the United States.


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