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Russia to sign deal to build Vietnam’s first nuclear plant

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will visit Hanoi this weekend to agree the construction of Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant, a deal aimed at reviving ties with the Soviet-era ally, his aide said on Friday.

Russian and Vietnamese officials will ink an intergovernmental agreement to construct a nuclear power plant, part of an “extensive raft of bilateral agreements,” Medvedev’s top foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko said.

He also told reporters Moscow was willing to provide a loan to help Hanoi finance the plant’s construction.

“Such a large project as the construction of a nuclear power station naturally prompts our friends to make use of our financial resources,” Prikhodko said at the Kremlin in comments released on Friday

“We are ready to consider the issue of extending credit for the construction of the nuclear power plant on mutually agreeable terms.”

He did not provide further details but an official with the state nuclear corporation Rosatom told AFP that the negotiations centred around a two-unit power plant whose construction is estimated at around four billion euros (5.6 billion dollars).

“Together with the infrastructure it will be a bit more,” the official said on condition of anonymity ahead of the signing.

For construction to start, the countries would have to sign a firm contract, the official added, saying it was too early to speak of any timeframe.

He added however that a group of Vietnamese experts and students had already arrived in the town of Obninsk outside Moscow — home to Russia’s first Soviet-era nuclear plant and top nuclear research centres — for training.

Analysts speak of an increasing demand for nuclear energy and Russia is locked in a global race with competitors like the United States, Japan and France to clinch lucrative contracts worldwide.

In March, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tasked his government with boosting Russia’s share on the global nuclear market to 25 percent from the current 16 percent.

Vietnam has approved building the country’s first nuclear power stations and 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.

Earlier this month, Moscow and Caracas signed an agreement to build and operate Venezuela’s first nuclear power plant.

In May, Moscow inked a deal to build and operate Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in a project estimated to cost up to 20 billion dollars.