The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on July 22 approved the US - Vietnam agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation.

Signed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Brunei in October 2013, the agreement was approved by President Barack Obama in February 2014.

The deal will allow US companies to enter Vietnam's expanding nuclear power market, potentially earning them 10-20 billion USD and generating 50,000 high-paid jobs for American workers.

It is part of Vietnam’s efforts to ease its shortage of energy, towards meeting over 10 percent of the domestic power demand by 2030. It is now awaiting the Senate’s passage.

Non-proliferation activists and some lawmakers are concerned that the agreement does not forbid Vietnam from enriching uranium itself or reprocessing plutonium. Those capabilities can be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Instead, Vietnam signed a non-binding memorandum with the US, saying that it does not intend to seek those capabilities.

The country’s nuclear power market is estimated to rank second in Southeast Asia, only after China, with an estimated turnover of 50 billion USD in the next two decades.-VNA