Nuclear Law and Policy
Team and Experts
Global Health Law and Governance
International Dispute Resolution
Nuclear Law and Policy
Head, Nuclear Law & Policy; Principal Investigator
Ms Annabelle TEO
Teaching and Researching International Law in Asia (TRILA)
Within Southeast Asia, certain Member States of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have plans and are taking steps to develop nuclear power plants as part of their long-term energy planning. While some ASEAN Member States are taking steps towards adopting a national position for a nuclear power programme, to date, none have made the political decision to do so. Given that nuclear power involves a complex and politically sensitive policy process, its prospects in this region have waxed and waned. Nonetheless, there are projections that Southeast Asia’s nuclear power capacity may be a reality by 2040. Historically, energy security has been the region’s main impetus for exploring alternative energy sources, including nuclear energy. More recently, ASEAN has acknowledged that climate considerations are also challenging ASEAN to explore the potential of nuclear energy to contribute to the clean energy transition, given its low-carbon credentials.
Within this context, the CIL Nuclear Law and Policy Team has been carrying out legal and policy-oriented research and research activities in the area of nuclear governance at both the international level and the ASEAN level. Nuclear governance covers the spectrum of what is commonly known as the 3Ss, namely, nuclear safety, security and safeguards, as well as non-proliferation, distinct yet interrelated concepts. Following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the world was reminded that nuclear liability forms an intrinsic part of nuclear safety. At the ASEAN level, the Team’s research focuses on understanding and documenting the different aspects of the governance regime and its relationship to the international regime.
Current work streams focus on governance issues related to (i) transportable (floating) nuclear power plants, an area that cuts across both nuclear and ocean governance; (ii) operationalising the modernised international nuclear liability regime; and (iii) ASEAN nuclear governance. Other research areas relate to the use of environmental assessments to promote transboundary consultation on nuclear-power-related developments within Southeast Asia and topical areas concerning the nexus between nuclear energy, climate change and sustainable development and the nexus between public health emergencies and the nuclear threat.
The CIL Nuclear Law and Policy Team also produces its own podcast series, Nuclear Matters at CIL. This podcast series seeks to share research and contribute to capacity building within the Southeast Asia region on law and policy issues of international importance and regional relevance. The CIL Nuclear Law and Policy Team maintains a dedicated Twitter account @CIL_Nuclear. It provides updates on the Team’s research and/or research activities and shares information on developments of relevance to nuclear governance at both the international and ASEAN levels.
- Current Work Streams
- Legal and Institutional Issues Related to Transportable Nuclear Power Plants
The prospect of a Transportable Nuclear Power Plant (TNPP) deployment and operation within or near Southeast Asia requires careful consideration of the challenges posed by TNPPs, in particular sea-based TNPPs, to the existing international legal and institutional frameworks such as those under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Maritime Organisation. This work stream focuses on the key legal and institutional issues posed by TNPPs to these frameworks and the implications of any such TNPP deployment and operation within or near Southeast Asia.
TNPPs for civilian use represent a new industry innovation, which is generating significant interest, not only within the international community but also in the region. TNPPs, being small, modular and transportable in nature, allow for the energy needs of remotely located, undeveloped or disaster-stricken areas without connectivity to electricity grids to be met at costs that are significantly lower than conventional land-based nuclear power plants and with a far shorter deployment time.
The IAEA defines a TNPP as a factory-manufactured, transportable and/or relocatable nuclear power plant that, when fuelled, is capable of producing final energy products such as electricity, heat and desalinated water. A TNPP includes the nuclear reactor (with or without fuel, depending on the TNPP option considered), the balance of the plant (e.g. turbine, generator) and fuel storage facilities, if necessary. The TNPP is not designed to either produce energy during transportation or provide energy for the transportation itself.
- Issues Related to Operationalising the Modernised International Nuclear Liability Regime
In the area of nuclear liability, while the modernised international nuclear liability regime aims to achieve a delicate balance between the interests of victims and the nuclear industry, there are challenges to operationalising this regime due to uncertainties as to the scope of nuclear damage that is compensable and how to provide for transboundary claims handling in the event of an accident. There is currently a lack of consensus on addressing these challenges within the international community. This work stream focuses on understanding these uncertainties and exploring how these challenges may be addressed at a regional level.
In the event of a nuclear incident where transboundary nuclear damage is suffered, victims will need certainty as to (i) the heads of damage that are compensable within the scope of nuclear damage covered by the modernised international nuclear liability regime; and (ii) how to go about making claims for such damage suffered, i.e. the transboundary claims-handling process and procedures. In the aftermath of a nuclear incident, the lack of certainty in either of these key areas will hinder the effective operationalisation of the modernised international nuclear liability regime, impacting the flow of compensation when needed most.
- ASEAN Nuclear Governance
Research in this area aims to answer the following questions: How is ASEAN cooperating in preparing for the possible future deployment of nuclear power in Southeast Asia? Who are the actors and how are they managing the common affairs related to the safe, secure and peaceful uses of civilian nuclear energy in anticipation of this possibility? What are the formal or informal arrangements under which these actors act, and to what extent are they based on international rules, standards and practices? What are the priorities and plans of these actors? In short, what is the state of nuclear governance within ASEAN?
Key outputs include:
- A comprehensive mapping of bodies and instruments relevant to nuclear governance within Southeast Asia (Latest publicly available version)
- A table of participation by the respective ASEAN Member States in key international nuclear safety, security and liability as well as environmental conventions (Latest publicly available version)
- A background report on the evolution and current state of ASEAN nuclear governance (forthcoming)
Updated versions of these outputs may be available on request.
- Other Research Areas
Environmental assessments could potentially be used as mechanisms to enhance transboundary consultation within the context of a state making the national decision to embark on a nuclear power programme and the siting of a nuclear power plant. Environmental impact assessments (EIA) and strategic environmental assessments (SEA) can help to facilitate transboundary consultation on potential environmental impacts of nuclear power development at project or plan and programme levels, as the case may be.
Key outputs include:
- Summary report of the workshop entitled “Regional Cooperation to Enhance Transboundary Consultation on Nuclear Power Development in Southeast Asia” held in May 2019
- Selected Documents on Transboundary Consultation Relating to Nuclear Power Plant Development
- Denise Cheong and Nivedita S, “Enhancing Transboundary Consultation in the context of Nuclear Power Development in Southeast Asia” Journal Article (forthcoming)
Emerging areas of research include work to understand the legal and policy issues related to the nexus between nuclear energy, climate change and sustainable development and the nexus between public health emergencies and the nuclear threat. In the case of climate change and sustainable development, the focus has been on the following: (i) the ongoing policy dialogue on the role of nuclear energy in climate action and sustainable development taking place globally as well as within specific regions such as the United National Economic Commission for Europe region (where nuclear energy accounts for 20% of electricity generated and over 40% of low-carbon generation); (ii) taxonomic developments, such as those taking place within the EU, which may result in nuclear-related activities being classified as sustainable economic activities or not as the case may be and the implications this will have on nuclear projects worldwide; and (iii) deep geological repositories as a disposal solution for high-level radioactive waste, given that this remains a key challenge for the sustainability of nuclear energy.
In terms of the nexus between public health emergencies and the nuclear threat, the focus is on understanding global and ASEAN developments within the health and disaster management sectors that would apply to nuclear governance, particularly within the context of emergency preparedness and response, an aspect of nuclear safety.
Key outputs include:
- Selected Documents on Nuclear Energy Climate Change and Sustainable Development
- Nuclear Energy, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Resource Guide (forthcoming)
- ASEAN and COVID-19 Resource Guide (forthcoming)
- Podcast Series: Nuclear Matters at CIL
Nuclear Matters at CIL is a podcast series that seeks to share research and contribute to capacity building within the Southeast Asia region on law and policy issues of international importance and regional relevance. The series focuses on issues within the areas of nuclear safety (including liability), security and safeguards, as well as non-proliferation, drawing on the research and expertise of international and regional experts and that of the CIL Nuclear Law and Policy Team. The Team launched this podcast series in 2020.
- Ep 0: Introduction to Nuclear Law and Policy – A New Focus for CIL
- Ep 1: Backgrounder on the Fundamentals of Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards
- Ep 2: Fundamentals of Nuclear Safety
- Ep 3: Fundamentals of Nuclear Security
- Ep 4: Fundamentals of Nuclear Safeguards and the Interrelationships between Safety, Security and Safeguards
- Ep 5: Fundamentals of Nuclear Liability
- Ep 6: Nuclear Power Development and the IAEA Milestones Approach Part 1
- Ep 7: Nuclear Power Development and the IAEA Milestones Approach Part 2
- Ep 8: The Role of Nuclear Law
- Ep 9: Radioactive Waste Management and Multinational Repositories