Topic 03. International law in the sphere of decommissioning

1. International Law in the Sphere of the Safe Use of Nuclear Energy


Cooperation of nations in the sphere of the use of nuclear energy exists in accordance with the general rules of international law, including the UN Charter. The international treaty serves the main role in the formation of international nuclear law.
The development and conclusion of international agreements has its own specifics in international nuclear law. Almost all draft agreements in this branch of international law were developed within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Another feature of the process of the formation of norms in international atomic law is that the adoption of rules either precedes implementation, or occurs simultaneously with it.
The conclusion of international agreements which govern special issues of cooperation in nuclear activities is a leading trend in the development of international nuclear law. Such agreements include the International Convention on Liability for Nuclear Damage, the International Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material 1980, and some others. Important in the international nuclear rules are also rules contained in some international conventions on maritime law.
According to these standards, states are obliged to take measures to prevent pollution of the sea by the dumping of radioactive wastes or any other activities involving the use of radioactive materials. In addition, international norms are governed by the conditions of safe use and the legal regime of ships with nuclear power plants. These include the Geneva Convention on the High Seas in 1958, International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea in 1960 and 1974, and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982.
Important sources of law are those agreements signed by nations with specialized organizations - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), etc.
In addition to multilateral agreements, states enter into a large number of bilateral agreements on relevant issues. These agreements include, for example, the agreement governing the conditions of the entry of vessels with nuclear power plants into the waters or ports of the contracting states.
The main international instruments in the field of atomic law include:

In the sphere of decommissioning, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste (Vienna, September 5, 1997) should be singled out.  This normative act contains the basic principles and requirements of safe management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. Moreover, the convention allows for different nuclear fuel cycles in specific countries.
While some parties to the Convention may consider that spent nuclear fuel is radioactive waste, others consider that they are nuclear materials.
Currently, for regulating the process of decommissioning, a methodology has been developed by the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA), based on the analysis of reference levels.
Within the framework of WENRA, the Working Group on Waste and Decommissioning (WGWD) is responsible for the safe management of radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel and decommissioning of nuclear facilities.
This group has developed a document "Waste and spent fuel storage safety reference levels report.” In this document, in general terms, are formulated those reference levels of security which in the form of specific regulatory requirements should be reflected in the national regulations of the member states of the Association governing the safe handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.
A significant number of international nuclear law norms are contained in multilateral and bilateral international agreements on scientific and technical cooperation and technical assistance in various fields of nuclear energy, especially in the field of nuclear energy (for example, the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the United States "Joint Statement of Principles for Management and Disposition of Plutonium Designated as No Longer Required for Defense Purposes.")