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Cablegate: National Nuclear Security Agency Discusses Sister Lab

VZCZCXRO8345
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0297/01 0460650
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150650Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4632
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2559

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000297

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR ISN/NESS, EAP/K AND EAP/MLS
DEPT OF ENERGY FOR NNSA/NA-21 (SARAH FRAZER, KEN APT, SARAH
DICKERSON)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG TRGY KIPR KNNP KGIT VM
SUBJECT: NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY AGENCY DISCUSSES SISTER LAB
COOPERATION WITH VIETNAM

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) Summary: Vietnamese officials signaled a strong willingness
to sign a cooperative arrangement with the United States on
information exchange and cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear
energy during the team visit of the National Nuclear Security
Administration's (NNSA) Global Security and Engagement Program to
Vietnam in January 22-26. Government of Vietnam (GVN) officials
told the NNSA team, led by Director Monte Mallin, that the GVN
enthusiastically supports establishing bilateral sister laboratory
cooperation. On February 6, Director Mallin forwarded to Vice
Minister of Science and Technology Tran Quoc Thang a draft
arrangement, which has been positively received. End Summary.

2. (SBU) During January 21-26, a six-person USG team led by NNSA's
Global Security and Engagement Program Director Monte Mallin visited
Hanoi and Dalat, Vietnam to discuss nuclear science issues,
including the potential of a cooperative arrangement between the
Department of Energy (DOE) and the Ministry of Science and
Technology (MOST) on information exchange and cooperation in the
peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The visit had three objectives: 1)
promote the establishment of a sister laboratory arrangement for
peaceful nuclear cooperation between NNSA and MOST; 2) assess
Vietnam's technical facilities and capabilities, primarily at the
Nuclear Research
Institute in Dalat, that would be involved in future collaborations,
and 3) identify potential areas for cooperation. The DOE/STATE team
was warmly received by Vice Minister of Science and Technology Tran
Quoc Thang as well as officials from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC), the Vietnam Agency
for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control (VARANSAC) and the
Nuclear Research Institute (NRI) in Dalat. The visit followed on
preliminary meetings held in November, 2006 in Washington, DC that
included senior officials from MOST, VARANSAC and the Office of
Government.

GVN Delighted to Sign Cooperative Agreement
-------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) DOE/NNSA assistance through a Sister Laboratory program was
welcomed by all five organizations in conjunction with Vietnam's
plans for civilian nuclear energy. MOST Vice Minister Tran Quoc
Thang indicated that the MOST is interested in signing the
arrangement for cooperation and that he would create the "most
favorable conditions" for new collaboration. (COMMENT: An
arrangement between MOST and DOE would allow NNSA to collaborate
with both VAEC and VARANSAC, thereby enabling broad areas for
collaboration. However, initial efforts would focus on nuclear
infrastructure issues and probably be undertaken with VAEC, which is
the parent organization administering the NRI. END COMMENT.) VM
Thang advised the group to focus initial cooperation on realistic,
achievable goals and suggested that the details of collaboration be
developed by technical experts from both sides.

4. (SBU) During the meeting, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
representative Pham Van Thang expressed appreciation for the
initiative and reiterated the GVN's desire to cooperate with the
United States in civilian nuclear topics. MOST views nuclear
cooperation with the United States as particularly important for
implementation of the National Strategy for the Peaceful Use of
Nuclear Energy. With the objective of achieving civilian nuclear
power by 2020, the strategy comprises elements of nuclear energy
technology, nuclear infrastructure and civilian applications. Thang
suggested three notional areas for sister laboratory assistance,
namely radiation protection, low-level radioactive waste management
and emergency planning.

5. (SBU) During the meeting with VM Thang, the USG delegation gave
an overview of the Sister Laboratory program and provided MOST and
VAEC with a copy of a draft arrangement, with the request that
suggestions for changes be communicated to NNSA. In addition, the
NNSA team promised to provide a short list of tentative topics for
collaboration.

VAEC OUTLINES POTENTIAL AREAS OF COLLABORATION
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) At a separate meeting, the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission
(VAEC) Chairman Vuong Huu Tan warmly welcomed the opportunity to
collaborate with U.S. National Laboratories. Dr. Tan reiterated the
GVN's strategy to support peaceful nuclear energy, including:
building the nation's first nuclear power plant; increasing nuclear
applications in socio-economic areas; and enhancing human resources
needed for to achieve the national strategy. VAEC officials
outlined several areas for possible technical collaboration under a
sister laboratory arrangement as follows:

HANOI 00000297 002 OF 002

-- Emerging issues related to operating a mixed reactor core
subsequent to the planned fuel conversion at NRI (under separate
NNSA/NA-21 Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return program) and topics
related to construction of a new research reactor;
-- Nuclear power plant development by 2020, including
technology selection, safety standards, and human resources
training;
-- Radioactive waste management, including radiological
sources;
-- Environmental radiation monitoring, including regional
network and environmental transport modeling;
-- Radiation protection and nuclear safety; and
-- Application of nuclear technology to health care and
agriculture.

The USG team provided an extensive review of the Sister Laboratory
program. Vietnamese counterparts were both inquisitive and
supportive and they asked numerous questions regarding cooperation,
such as the list of other countries involved in similar programs,
mechanisms of cooperation, program size and funding, and
relationship to IAEA technical cooperation.

VAEC's Nuclear Research Institute in Dalat
------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Subsequently, the USG team traveled to Dalat to assess the
capabilities and interest of the Nuclear Research Institute (NRI)
for future collaboration. The team provided detailed information on
the scope and mechanisms of sister laboratory collaboration as well
as overviews of technical capabilities and programs of Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Oak Ridge National
Laboratory (ORNL). NRI staff provided a detailed briefing on NRI
programs and capabilities and facilitated an extensive tour of the
facility and laboratories. (COMMENT: The USG teams assesses that
NRI generally has a high level of technical competence, as evidenced
by numerous successful endeavors such as radiopharmaceutical
production and neutron activation analysis. NRI has made extensive
and effective use of IAEA technical cooperation projects. END
COMMENT.) VAEC officials presented a comprehensive list of topics
for possible collaboration, which included research reactor
applications, neutron activation analysis, environmental
surveillance, radiation protection and health physics and
radioactive waste management.

CONCLUSION
----------

8. (SBU) While all topics raised by GVN interlocutors were of
potential interest to DOE/NNSA, NNSA will propose initial topics
that are within the scope of the sister laboratory program's
resources and mission and that are best aligned with the overall
objective of infrastructure improvement in anticipation of Vietnam's
civilian nuclear power development. The USG team's overall
conclusion was that sister laboratory cooperation will mesh well
with Vietnam's new strategy for nuclear energy. The Vietnamese
counterparts appeared eager to establish the partnership and begin
collaboration. Moreover, the USG team concluded that MOST and VAEC
are both capable and responsive partners in a variety of potential
nuclear infrastructure cooperation topics.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: Vietnam is an emerging regional economic player
with significant interests in developing a peaceful nuclear research
program for power and socio-economic applications. Mobilizing
various governmental agencies and ministries to sign bilateral
cooperative agreements requires both time and patience. Post
encourages DOE/NNSA to continue to pursue the sister laboratory
cooperation. This initial program has the potential to open a
multitude of other possible initiatives, including technical
assistance for developing Vietnam's nuclear regulatory framework,
safeguarding of other nuclear materials, and developing the interest
of U.S corporations to provide infrastructure for the planned second
research reactor and first nuclear power facility. Post stands
ready to support DOE/NNSA as needed to ensure the GVN signs the
draft sister laboratory cooperation agreement, which could be
highlighted in the visit of President Nguyen Minh Triet to
Washington planned this summer.

10. (U) This cable has been cleared by DOE/NNSA.

ALOISI

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