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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06HANOI2734 2006-10-26 10:18:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Hanoi
Cable title:  

MFA GIVES NOD ON FUEL CONVERSION OF VIETNAM'S RESEARCH

Tags:   KNNP ENRG TRGY KIPR VM 
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VZCZCXRO0582
PP RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #2734/01 2991018
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261018Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3820
INFO RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2039
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002734 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NP (FENSTERMACHER); EAP/MLS
NSC FOR HOLLY MORROW
USDOE FOR NNSA/NA-1 (BROOKS); NNSA/NA-20 (TOBEY, BAKER);
NNSA/NA-21 (BIENIAWSKI, CUMMINS, DICKERSON)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KNNP ENRG TRGY KIPR VM
SUBJECT: MFA GIVES NOD ON FUEL CONVERSION OF VIETNAM'S RESEARCH
REACTOR


THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.

Ref: A) Hanoi 2687 B) Hanoi 2662



1. (SBU) Summary. On October 24, 2006, the Department of Energy's
National Nuclear Security Administration Assistant Deputy
Administrator (ADA) Andrew Bieniawski met separately with Vice
Minister of Science and Technology Le Binh Dinh and Assistant
Minister of Foreign Affairs Phan Binh Minh to continue engagement
with the Government of Vietnam (GVN) for the fuel conversion of
Vietnam's research reactor and to reiterate the importance of
showing tangible commitment on this issue prior to President Bush's
visit in November. Whereas VM Dinh reiterated the Ministry of
Science and Technology's (MOST) hopes for continued support from the
USG but left the topics of discussion unresolved, the two sides made
apparent progress during the meeting with AM Minh and other Ministry
of Foreign Affairs (MFA). AM Minh assured ADA Bieniawski that "all
options are on the table" regarding nuclear non-proliferation
assistance cooperation and that resolution on this issue, along with
others, will help ensure that President Bush's visit to Vietnam will
be a success. ADA Bieniawski sent a letter to MFA summarizing the
proposed nonproliferation projects to AS Minh (septel). End
summary.

Meeting with MOST on the Dalat Reactor Conversion


--------------------------



--------------------------





2. (SBU) On October 24, 2006, the Department of Energy's National
Nuclear Security Administration Assistant Deputy Administrator
Andrew Bieniawski met with Vice Minister of Science and Technology
Le Dinh Tien to continue engagement with the GVN for the fuel
conversion of Vietnam's research reactor and to reiterate the
importance of showing tangible commitment on this issue prior to
President Bush's visit in November. (Note: Vice Minister Tran Quoc
Thang, our usual interlocutor on this issue, was on travel to Korea.
End Note.) As reported (reftel A), the Embassy had previously met
with MOST to underscore the scientific as well as political
importance of moving forward on the fuel conversion project and
concluding the two related agreements on nuclear non-proliferation
prior to President Bush's visit in November.



3. (SBU) ADA Bieniawski highlighted that the purpose of his visit
is to secure approval from the GVN on the repatriation to Russia of
the fresh high-enriched uranium (HEU) fuel, and that this could
possibly be one of several deliverables highlighted in a
U.S.-Vietnam joint statement. He emphasized that no USG-GVN
government-to-government agreement is needed to swap-out the HEU
fuel and converting the reactor to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel,
since that work is performed under a trilateral DOE-Russian
company-IAEA contract. He provided a detailed presentation of the
DOE's Russia Research Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) program, stating
that DOE has experience with successfully implementing 10 HEU fuel
shipments in other countries. Other DOE/NNSA nuclear security
activities in Vietnam include: security upgrades to the Dalat
reactor facility; a basic ordering agreement signed for training on
securing radiological sources and specifically four sites in
Vietnam; technical assistance to develop a regulatory framework; and
recent training and equipment worth USD 88,000 for orphan source
search methods. Finally, ADA Bieniawski offered to commit USD 1
million to purchase 36 LEU replacement fuel assemblies, which would
take about six months to produce in Russia.



4. (SBU) VM Tien reiterated his support for the RRRFR program. He
stated that MOST highly appreciates the support of USG and
reiterated hopes that the DOE will continue to support Vietnam's
strategy for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Vice Minister
stated that MOST is currently preparing a proposal to the Office of
the Government that will address its three concerns of safety,
quality of the LEU fuel and integrity of the Dalat Research
Institute's aging reactor. He offered neither a timeline for when
the proposal would be submitted nor an indication of when the Office
of the Government may provide a decision on the issue.

Meeting with MFA on the Dalat Reactor Conversion


--------------------------

---



5. (SBU) Subsequent to the meeting with MOST, ADA Bieniawski met
with Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh to
continue engagement with the GVN for the fuel conversion and
reiterate at higher levels within the GVN the importance of showing
tangible commitment on this issue prior to President Bush's visit in
November. He provided a presentation of the issues noted above in
paragraph three, including the offer to commit USD 1 million to

HANOI 00002734 002 OF 002


purchase 36 LEU replacement fuel assemblies.



6. (SBU) AM Minh assured ADA Bieniawski that "all options are on
the table" regarding nuclear non-proliferation cooperation and that
resolution on this issue, along with others, will ensure that
President Bush's visit to Vietnam will be a success. MFA personnel
were also amenable to ADA Bieniawski's proposal to focus a USG-GVN
agreement limited to fuel return activities as an alternative to the
broad, nonproliferation assistance agreement (and companion DOE-MOST
implementing agreement). (



7. (SBU) Despite the fact that the MFA had told us that it
considers the latter draft documents to be "too vague," and had
previously declined to sign them (reftel B), MFA Acting Director of
the Department of International Organizations Le Hoai Trung offered
that the two draft agreements might be considered if the cooperative
assistance are provided. One of ADA Bieniawski's team, a DOE legal
counsel, responded that the draft bilateral agreements were
specifically written as broad framework agreements, intended to
provide a framework for a broad range of nonproliferation assistance
cooperation, with DOE as well as other USG agencies.

Comment


--------------------------





8. (SBU) The GVN appears at this time to be unwilling to sign the
broad bilateral agreements, which would allow for the transfer of
spent fuel assemblies back to Russia. They do, however, appear to
be very interested in the replacement of HEU for LEU and fuel
conversion activity. Gaining political traction on this issue
appears to now rest in the MFA, not the MOST. ADA Bieniawski's
offer to provide MFA with a brief summary of his visit and specific
details of the USG assistance on the table was well received by MFA
senior staff. With this letter (septel), and a scheduled meeting
between the Ambassador and continued high-level engagement between
the Embassy and the MFA, we believe that the prospects for quick
agreement on one or two of the issues at hand is possible.



9. (SBU) This cable has been cleared by ADA Bieniawski.

MARINE