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Nuclear Law Institute Trains Nuclear Safety Leaders

The IAEA's first Nuclear Law Institute was launched on 20 November 2011 in Vienna, attended by 87 participants from 61 countries.

Used in tracing underground water courses, locating oil deposits, ensuring aircraft, pipeline and highway construction integrity, conserving and analyzing ancient artifacts, mapping ocean currents and measuring climate changes, preventing fires, reducing air pollution, among many other applications, nuclear technologies are finding ever wider applications in both developed and developing countries. Some of these applications are literally lifesaving: nuclear technologies are used in medical diagnostics, cancer treatment and for sterilizing blood, tissue and medical supplies.

The IAEA fosters the efficient and safe use of nuclear power by supporting interested Member States, as well as helping Member States introduce and utilize nuclear technologies for many other uses. To govern these myriad applications' safe and secure use, the IAEA helps Member States establish and maintain the needed legal and regulatory framework.

"We help Member States to address national development priorities in fields where nuclear techniques offer advantages over other approaches, or where nuclear techniques can usefully supplement conventional means," said Kwaku Aning, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, "for example, our work helps to combat child malnutrition, supports breastfeeding programmes and addresses child mortality from preventable water-borne diseases."

"Yet, many countries," Aning emphasized, "have difficulty in educating an adequate number of new nuclear lawyers to help establish and maintain national nuclear legal and regulatory frameworks."

Training Legal Experts

As the demand for nuclear applications rises, so too the demand for legislative assistance is steadily growing, said Peri Johnson, IAEA Legal Adviser and Director, IAEA Office of Legal Affairs, "we provide intensive, professional training and assistance to countries that wish to become party to the relevant international legal instruments, help develop the national legislation to govern nuclear activities, and publish unique and invaluable reference materials."

In the past five years alone, the IAEA has reviewed 125 national nuclear laws and trained about 700 individuals in nuclear law through regional workshops, fellowships and national seminars. This work also contributes directly to the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme, since the safe and secure use of nuclear applications depends upon an adequate national legal and regulatory infrastructure. Many developing countries look to the IAEA for support in completing this complex task, as well as in assistance in establishing the infrastructure required for a national nuclear power programme.

Nuclear Law Institute Launched

Building upon past and on-going activities, the IAEA launched in Vienna the first session of its annual Nuclear Law Institute from 20 November to 2 December 2011. Organized by the Office of Legal Affairs, the comprehensive two-week course was aimed at helping to strengthen national capacities in the areas of nuclear safety, security, safeguards and liability. It was designed to meet developing countries' specific needs for expert legislative competence through the utilization of entirely new teaching methods in this field.

According to the Head of the Nuclear and Treaty Law Section, IAEA Office of Legal Affairs, Wolfram Tonhauser, who manages the course, the Institute offered "a unique educational experience for promising young professionals" and "it is one of the ways in which the IAEA is now intensifying its efforts to help meet the needs of Member States in training their future leaders in the field of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."

Following the first session's conclusion, Tonhauser highlighted that based on feedback from the participants, "the first session was a success." He and the team are "looking forward to repeating that success in next year's session."


The Nuclear Law Institute is designed to provide participants a clear understanding of drafting a comprehensive nuclear law, including the relevant international legal instruments in nuclear safety, security, safeguards and liability for nuclear damage. It is expected that on completion participants will be able to provide their governments advice on matters related to nuclear law, as well as draft, amend or review national nuclear laws to reflect the provisions of the international instruments.

The IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme is the primary mechanism for delivering IAEA services. It focuses on the safe and secure application of nuclear science and technology for sustainable socioeconomic development. The programme is unique in the UN system, as it combines significant technical and developmental competencies. All Member States are eligible for support, although in practice technical cooperation activities tend to focus on the needs and priorities of less developed countries. The programme is very much a shared responsibility between the Agency and the 129 countries and territories receiving support.

Last update: 27 July 2017


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