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IAEA Supporting the Enhancement of Saudi Arabia’s National Nuclear Legal Framework

Representatives from the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission (NRRC) of Saudi Arabia and the IAEA Office of Legal Affairs. (Photo: IAEA)

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking to add nuclear to its energy mix and the IAEA is assisting its efforts in developing laws and legislative frameworks that would support the implementation of its nuclear energy programme in a safe, secure and transparent manner. To this aim, from 12 to 14 December 2022 the IAEA together with Saudi Arabia’s nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission (NRRC), held a National Workshop on Nuclear Law in Riyadh.

Attended by about 20 officials from the Ministry of Energy, the Bureau of Experts at the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice, the Bar Association, the Public Prosecution and Imam University, the event focused on the different elements of a comprehensive national legal framework and on the country’s obligations arising from the international legal instruments in the areas of nuclear safety, security, safeguards and civil liability for nuclear damage.

“It is important for the country to have a robust and comprehensive legal framework in place to provide the foundation for an effective system of regulatory control, now and in the future,” said Anthony Wetherall, the Lead for the IAEA Legislative Assistance Programme and an organizer of the workshop. “We therefore look forward to supporting efforts to enhance the legal framework upon request,” Wetherall added.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia’s Government announced its intention to add nuclear to the country’s energy mix and its Council of Ministers approved a comprehensive legislative package, including the Law on Nuclear and Radiation Control, the Charter of the NRRC and the Law on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage. Saudi Arabia received IAEA legislative assistance in this regard through the review of draft legislation in December 2016 and bilateral discussions during a legislative assistance mission conducted in February 2017.

The workshop provided an opportunity for representatives to share experiences and lessons learned related to international and national legal frameworks for the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy and ionizing radiation. The workshop also provided an opportunity for participants to visit the NRRC’s Emergency and Radiological Monitoring Centre and to gain an understanding of NRRC’s role in the context of the ConvEx-3 exercise held in October 2021 and in activating the National Emergency Response Plan for Radiological and Nuclear Accidents.

After the workshop the IAEA team shared with NRRC representatives some initial observations on the current legal framework further to the recommendations made during the 2018 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia enacted the nuclear law, developed in cooperation with the IAEA, in 2018,” said Bandar E. M. Alharbi, NRRC’s General Director of Legal Affairs and International Relations. “This three-day national workshop on nuclear law organized by the NRRC, provided a very useful platform for outreach and discussion of several aspects of national nuclear law in correlation with international legal instruments”.

Saudi Arabia is party to all the main instruments adopted under IAEA auspices in the field of nuclear safety and security. In the field of nuclear liability, the country is party to the Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage. The workshop discussed the benefits for countries in becoming party to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, in particular in terms of increased legal certainty for embarking countries and the availability of supplementary compensation in the event of a nuclear incident in a neighboring country.

This event was implemented under the IAEA Legislative Assistance Programme within the framework of the regional Technical Cooperation Project RAS0090 entitled ‘Establishing and Enhancing National Nuclear Legal Frameworks’.

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