Press Release

American Academy Report Explores Implications of Vietnam’s Nuclear Program


CAMBRIDGE, MA | July 16, 2014 – A newly released monograph from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Nuclear Power in Vietnam: International Responses and Future Prospects, explores the current and potential evolution of Vietnam’s nuclear program in light of regional geopolitical dynamics. It is authored by Tanya Ogilvie-White, an expert in nuclear security and the regional politics of Southeast Asia, currently based at Australian National University, Canberra.

Despite recent obstacles that have forced the government to delay construction on its first nuclear plants, Vietnam is poised to become the first state operating nuclear power plants in Southeast Asia, notably outpacing more technologically advanced countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia that have also expressed interest in pursuing nuclear energy. Vietnam’s plans include the construction of two 1,000 megawatt of electrical power (MWe) reactors in Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province by 2015, and a 2,000 MWe nuclear power plant (with two reactors) in Vinh Hai, a seaside community 40 kilometers from Phuoc Vinh, by 2021.

The peaceful intentions of Vietnam’s nuclear program are not in question today, but past proliferation outbreaks offer two lessons. First, peaceful intentions may change over time and thus the international community is justifiably interested in creating strong regulatory regimes and safeguards that can enhance transparency and confidence. Second, the introduction of civilian nuclear power to additional countries invariably creates new security and safety challenges; ignoring these challenges, rather than discussing them thoroughly, ultimately increases the risk of accident or nuclear proliferation and impairs the capacity of the international community to take appropriate precautionary measures to manage these risks.

Through a thoughtful, deeply analytical, and empirically rich analysis, Ogilvie-White finds that, thus far, Vietnam is indeed operating on the international scene as a responsible nuclear power: the country is demonstrating its full adherence to international treaties and maintaining an impeccable non-proliferation record. Nevertheless, the changing structure of the regional order in Southeast Asia, coupled with growing insecurity, territorial disputes, and an evident weakness of the chief regional organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to respond to such crises could create more powerful proliferation risks in the future.

Ogilvie-White encourages stronger bilateral and multilateral engagement with the region and with Vietnam, in particular, in order to respond to and improve current strategic insecurities. She urges nuclear weapons-states to successfully conclude the ratification process of the Protocol of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty. This action would allow for a significant de-escalation of tension, particularly among external powers operating in the region, and would offer a privileged platform for confidence and trust building inside the region and with key external players.

Nuclear Power in Vietnam is published as part of the American Academy’s Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative, is available online at:

For more than five decades the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has played a pivotal role in nuclear policy, beginning with a special issue of Dædalus on arms control published in 1960. The Academy continues this focus today with its Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative, which is working to prevent nuclear risks by identifying and promoting measures that will limit the security, safety, and proliferation risks created by the growing global appetite for nuclear energy. The GNF Initiative has created an interdisciplinary and international network of experts that is working together to devise and promote prudent and effective nuclear policy for the twenty-first century.

To help reduce the risks that could result from the global spread and expansion of nuclear energy, the GNF Initiative addresses a number of key policy areas, including the international nonproliferation regime, the entirety of the fuel cycle, the physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials, and the interaction of the nuclear industry with the nonproliferation community. Each of these areas has specific challenges and opportunities, but informed and thoughtful policies for all of them are required for a comprehensive approach to reduce the risks inherent in the spread of nuclear technology.

Tanya Ogilvie-White is Research Director and Associate Professor at the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (CNND) at the Australian National University, Canberra.

Recent Academy Publications from the Global Nuclear Future Initiative include:

All of these publications are available on the Academy’s website.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; institutions of democracy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs from around the world.




Global Nuclear Future

Steven E. Miller, Robert Rosner, and Scott D. Sagan