As countries increasingly plan to adopt or expand nuclear energy to their energy grids, the importance of national and international nuclear law was underscored in recent remarks by Rafael Mariano Grossi, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general.
Grossi addressed lawyers, regulators, and other officials from 54 countries on October 10 as part of the IAEA’s Nuclear Law Institute (NLI) training program. During his keynote address on the prospects of nuclear law, Grossi explained that he attached “enormous importance” to the subject, particularly as the use of nuclear science and technology is gathering pace around the world.
“We are confronting global challenges unlike any we have seen before,” he said, “Without nuclear energy [and the needed accompanying legal framework] . . . we are not going to be able to decarbonize the global energy matrix. . . . We are also confronted with a situation of energy security.”
Grossi also stressed the importance of the establishment of comprehensive national legislative and regulatory frameworks for countries in the process of building their first nuclear power plants. He added that even countries without nuclear energy programs needed adequate national laws because most countries used radioactive material in science and technology for other peaceful uses, such as in radiopharmaceuticals.
About NLI: The annual two-week course was launched by the IAEA in 2011 in response to demand from countries for greater understanding of nuclear law. According to the agency, the course aims to equip participants with a foundation of all aspects of nuclear law and enable them to draft, amend, or review national nuclear legislation.
At the end of the recent course, groups of participants presented their drafts of a national nuclear law prepared during the training under a hypothetical country profile, explaining each article in the law, followed by a plenary session of questions from participants and experts.
Other programs: In the past year, the IAEA has also launched a new fellowship program in nuclear law and has partnered with six universities around the world to develop a graduate-level curriculum in nuclear law.
They said it: Peri Lynne Johnson, legal advisor and director of the IAEA’s Office of Legal Affairs, said, “For more than a decade now, the NLI has been the go-to course on legislative drafting for officials from IAEA member states. More than 600 lawmakers, ranging from decision makers and legislative drafters, to lawyers, regulators, parliamentarians, and other stakeholders, have been trained, with many going on to provide the much needed technical and legal support during the national law-making process.”
Pitambar Bhandari of the Ministry of Education in Nepal said he decided to attend the NLI to build on the work of an IAEA legislative assistance mission to Nepal in March 2023. “The mission provided an opportunity for a wide range of government officials to have a view on international and national nuclear law, focusing on the relevant international instruments adopted by, and under, the auspices of the IAEA to which Nepal is not yet party,” he said. “To enable nuclear technology to play a vital role in addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges, we need a legal framework that carefully weighs its risks and benefits—which is the primary role of national nuclear law.”
Bernardino Etoriaga Sayo, an undersecretary in the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office of the Philippines, said the NLI’s course on drafting nuclear law proved useful in preparing the country’s draft comprehensive nuclear bill, which is expected to soon go before the Philippines’ Senate. “My participation at the NLI has provided me with the knowledge needed to help me support the Senate’s consideration of our draft bill and the relevant international nuclear legal instruments including the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage,” he said.
Sâabèsèlè Somda, from the Ministry of Environment in Burkina Faso, said, “Our draft law was sent for IAEA review in October 2022 with a bilateral review meeting and an awareness mission being held in December 2022 to support our goal of tabling the law in the Parliament at the March 2023 session. My participation in this year’s NLI has been very helpful to my role as the head of the drafting committee and will enable me to effectively support the law-making process.”