FAQ

What are the legal and regulatory frameworks for civil nuclear applications?

Answer

Concerning the legal framework, one has to differentiate between international level and national or regional level for civil nuclear applications. Besides the NPT, International Conventions address safety, spent fuel and wastes, notification of incidents or accidents, transport, physical protection of nuclear material and terrorism. They are legally binding instruments. At the national level one can find nuclear law, legislative and regulatory framework, agreements with other countries or international organizations for assistance in emergency situations.

Background

1 - International Conventions and legal instruments which have to be ratified or adopted by every country going to
     develop a nuclear program or already having one:
  * Convention on Nuclear Safety: all countries operating nuclear power plants are party to the Convention and
    non nuclear countries can join. It is based on a national report showing how the obligations are met, followed
    by a peer review process every three years. Obligations are reflecting the IAEA Safety Fundamentals Standard.
 * Joint Convention on the safety of spent fuel and on the safety of radioactive waste management: spent fuel
    from the operation of civilian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste from civilian applications; only 50 countries
    have ratified up to now and every 3 years there is a peer review of the national reports.
 * Convention on early notification of a nuclear accident and convention on assistance in the case of a nuclear
   accident or radiological emergency: it is an obligation to declare any accident leading to transboundary effects.
   The IAEA may be requested by the second convention to provide emergency assistance.
 * IAEA transport regulations for the safe transport of radioactive material: it creates a legally binding regime.
 * Code of conduct on the safety and security of radioactive sources: it is a non binding instrument. It covers
   also security of sources.
 * Code of conduct on the safety of research reactors: it is a non binding instrument but covers all the stages of
   lifetime of the research reactor including decommissioning.
 * Convention on the physical protection of nuclear material
 * International convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism
 * IAEA Nuclear Security Plan: non binding but adopted by all IAEA Member States
 * Vienna or Paris Conventions on Nuclear Liability
 
2 – National or regional legal framework
 
National nuclear law is the body of special legal norms created to regulate the conduct of legal or natural persons engaged in activities related to fissionable materials and ionizing radiation and is necessary to take at the government level. Legal agreements with neighbouring countries on early notification of accidents, on mutual assistance, on emergency planning if necessary and on transportation of radioactive material through each other’s boundary. Government(s) needs to show a long term commitment for ensuring or checking the existence of proper financial and human resources for the whole lifetime of the nuclear installation or plant (which means ~some 100 years).
 
Governments shall establish:
 * A legislative and statutory framework to regulate the safety of facilities and activities.
 * A regulatory body which shall be effectively independent of organizations or bodies charged with the promotion
   of nuclear technologies or responsible for facilities or activities
 * Responsibility shall be assigned to the regulatory body for authorization regulatory review and assessment,
   inspection and enforcement, and for establishing safety principles, criteria, regulations and guides.
 
The regulatory body shall be provided with adequate authority and power, and it shall be ensured that it has adequate staffing and financial resources to discharge its assigned responsibilities.
Adequate infrastructural arrangements shall be made for decommissioning, close-out or closure, site rehabilitation, and the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
Adequate infrastructural arrangements shall be made for the safe transport of radioactive material.
An effective system of governmental emergency response and intervention capabilities shall be established and emergency preparedness shall be ensured.
Adequate infrastructural arrangements shall be made for physical protection.
Adequate financial indemnification arrangements shall be made for third parties in the event of a nuclear or radiation accident in view of the damage and injury which may arise from an accident.
The prime responsibility for safety shall be assigned to the operator.
Regulations should be established and IAEA Safety Standards are not binding to all countries but should be met in the national regulations.

References:  IAEA web site for conventions and for safety standards
 
IAEA Safety Standards Structure


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