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Legal Framework for the Management of Transboundary Nuclear Risk

IAEA Topical Webinar Series on Nuclear Law

Date and time

Tuesday, 14 June 2022
2:00 pm Europe Summer Time (Berlin, GMT+02:00)

Register here →


Nuclear risks of a transboundary nature may arise from unscheduled events at nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, or during activities such as the international transport of radioactive material. Moreover, criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving, or directed at such facilities, material or activities, may pose a serious threat to international security. Such events and acts can cause transboundary radiation risks and other effects with potentially severe consequences for people, property and the environment. The notion of transboundary nuclear risk management covers the prevention of such events and acts in the context of the authorisation and regulation of facilities and activities, and it also includes risk minimisation and mitigation, as well as the allocation of loss. 

What is the role of international law in setting the basic parameters for transboundary nuclear risk management? This question can partly be considered based on established customary international law principles, such as the so-called “no harm” or “prevention” principle. Beyond general customary international law, transboundary nuclear risk management is today largely directly and indirectly governed by elaborate and comprehensive treaty-based regimes. In particular, the treaties adopted under the IAEA’s auspices on nuclear safety and security can be highlighted. These treaties establish high-level principles, objectives and requirements. They are underpinned by a comprehensive suite of safety standards and nuclear security guidance, respectively. To facilitate national implementation, they are also supported by voluntary practical implementation mechanisms such as IAEA services and reviews, and other assistance activities. Those binding and non-binding nuclear law standards are further complemented by relevant environmental law treaties. Taken as a whole, the applicable nuclear and environmental law treaties circumscribe the due diligence standard to be adopted by states in in order to comply with their customary international obligations pertaining to nuclear risk management.  If a nuclear incident still occurs, a state may be responsible and/or liable under international law for damage caused by its nuclear activities. Without prejudice to the rules on state responsibility and liability, a special treaty-based regime on civil liability for nuclear damage aims at ensuring prompt, adequate and non-discriminatory compensation for nuclear damage resulting from a nuclear incident under domestic law.

The IAEA will hold a webinar for officials from IAEA Member States on the Legal Framework for the Management of Transboundary Nuclear Risk, which will include an interactive Q&A session. The applicable legal frameworks related to a state’s national decision to embark on a nuclear power programme and the siting of a nuclear power plant will be considered, as will those related to emergency preparedness and response. Topics to be addressed include:

  • overview of the relevant international legal frameworks including the treaty-based regimes on nuclear safety, security and liability;
  • the substantive and procedural obligations of installation states and the rights of potential risk-exposed neighbouring countries; and
  • elements of a national legal framework addressing transboundary nuclear risks.


The Webinar will be held in English.


  • Anthony Wetherall, IAEA Legislative Assistance Programme Lead, Nuclear and Treaty Law Section, Office of Legal Affairs, IAEA
  • Christiane Ahlborn, Legal Officer (Public International Law and Treaty Law), Nuclear and Treaty Law Section, Office of Legal Affairs, IAEA


Mr. Wolfram Tonhauser, Section Head, Nuclear and Treaty Law Section, Office of Legal Affairs, IAEA

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