Written by Ekoja Okewu |
Published on:


’’No man is above the law, and no man is below it’’-Theodore Roosevelt


Although nuclear law is an essential prerequisite for realizing the many benefits of the safe, secure and peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, lack of wider awareness about international and national laws makes many sceptical when discussions relating to the nuclear sector springs up.  The efforts of the IAEA is commendable, but there is room to overcome lapses that exist due to variation between international and national laws interaction. Presently, nuclear laws are dousing tensions across the world but with an envisaged exponential advancement expected in the near future, there is need for everyone on earth to brainstorm and come up with proposals that will guide the nuclear industry tomorrow. The burden of this paper lies in defining some nuclear law terms, exploring a case study from Nigeria, highlighting the four branches of nuclear law and discussing about present and future nuclear laws for the end benefit of raising awareness and creating a peaceful world.


Nuclear law according to IAEA is the body of special legal norms created to regulate the conduct of legal or natural persons engaged in activities related to fissionable materials, ionizing radiation and exposure to natural sources of radiation.

Nuclear security and safety culture is the assembly of characteristics and attitudes in organizations and individuals which establishes that, as an over ridding priority, nuclear plant safety issues receive the attention warranted by their significance.

Nuclear safeguards are set of technical measures that are applied by the IAEA on nuclear facilities and materials. The means by which the IAEA verifies States legal commitments under their respective safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Nuclear energy liability is an insurance policy providing coverage to an individual or more frequently, a company in the event of a lawsuit resulting from personal or property damage due to nuclear energy.

Today means in the present time or age; nowadays

Tomorrow can refer to the future, especially the near future.



On the 27th of October 2021 while casually surfing the internet, I accidentally stumbled over this essay advertisement “Nuclear law: Today and Tomorrow”. AS I paused to ponder over the topic, I resolved within myself that though an interest for the nuclear sector resonates with me, I was truly ignorant about some of these laws and only a deliberate research effort could deliver me to deliver others. With my heart racing while I checked to ensure I had not missed the closing date, information about the extension until 15th November brought soothing relief. This led me to survey some Nigerians through this question. What do you know about nuclear law?

While majority of my respondents had never heard about nuclear laws, some gave me their responses.

“Nuclear laws are laws made by God”

“They are laws made by the society”

“They are laws that are not plenty like nuclear family”

“They are laws that are nuclear”

“They are laws that guide the use of nuclear energy”

I was truly impressed with the last response but a sense of responsibility enveloped my thought since less than 5% of my respondents had knowledge about nuclear laws. If many lacked knowledge about such an important subject matter today, what then would be the fate of unborn generation tomorrow? All these though fuelled me to engage the skill of critical thinking, research and creative writing to put forward a work that will expantiate on nuclear laws for the benefit of present and future generations.



“By far the greatest single danger facing human-kind , in fact all living beings on our planet, is the threat of nuclear destruction”-Dalai Lama

Nuclear power plants use fissile materials to generate energy in the form of heat,. This energy is then converted to electricity by conventional generating plants. Despite the great role played by this energy, they are very harmful to human and the environment if its use is not regulated to ensure safety.

The development of nuclear safety rules can be traced back to 1957 when a subcommittee was formed to formulate rules for the radiological protection of persons employed on Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) premises. Though these principles are still applicable, modifications have been made to these rules to accommodate the challenges of our time. The focus from the onset was on safety rules (radiological) and safety rules ionizing radiations for non-destructive testing but with the introduction of ionizing radiations in 1985, they were combined. The main objectives of nuclear safety is to guarantee smooth operating conditions and prevent guard against the consequences of accidents through protection of nuclear workers, the civil population, and environment.




“One of those issues that I will focus on today is fundamental to security of our nations, and to the peace of the world-that’s the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century”-Barack Obama

Nuclear security aims to protect people, property, society and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. With the events of Fukushima fresh in our hearts, it is pertinent to briefly survey the global stockpile of plutonium.

Table showing the Global stockpile of separated plutonium (End of 2017)







United State






























Other NNWS






Source: RECNA, December 2019 A guide to the worlds fissile material inventory

From the above table, it is evident that the civilian nuclear industry has more stockpile of separated plutonium than the military globally. Such revelations makes one appreciate the effort of nuclear organizations but imagine what the fate of humanity will be like were these stockpile to be under the control of terrorists. Your guess is as good as mine is. Catastrophe! Thank God  for agencies like the IAEA and other sister agencies that are making effort to organize conferences on nuclear security, propose security measures , proffer assistance to the public and engage the youths who are the leaders of tomorrow. To ensure there is more security, it is pertinent for countries around the world to reach compromise to reduce these stockpiles especially those among the non-military users.



When we talk about nuclear safeguards, it refers to the means by which the IAEA verifies States legal commitments under their respective safeguards agreements with the IAEA. To implement safeguards, a yearly cycle comprising of four main processes must be followed according to IAEA. They are;

  1. Collection and evaluation of safeguards-relevant information
  2. Development of a safeguards approach for a state
  3. Planning, conducting and evaluating safeguards activities
  4. Drawing of safeguards conclusions



Since accidents are bound to occur, the need for liability laws can’t be relegated to the background. These insurance policies provide cover in the event of an accident due to nuclear damage.

For instance, if during the installation of a nuclear plant, a residential building is destroyed; nuclear liability will act as a cover if a lawsuit process were to be instituted although compensations for such damages are usually paid depending on the agreements between parties involved.

Presently, owners of nuclear power plants pay an annual premium for $450 million in private insurance for offsite liability coverage for each reactor site.




With current trends of advancement across all spheres of life, it is important for stakeholders and the public to brainstorm and come up with complementary laws capable of facilitating peaceful application of nuclear science and technology.

Physical measures are currently in use but it comes with its own limitations.

The treaty signed by Argentina, Benin, Canada, Ghana, India, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, Romania, UAE, and US is commendable. Members under this agreement are required to harmonise their nuclear liability principles with those of other member countries, provide compensations for civil damages in other member countries resulting from  nuclear accidents,     They are to also provide for the establishment of a pool of funds that would be available in the event of an accident  should it be required to compensate for damages in countries that are members of the convention.





“What is the future going to be like then? Hey, it’s gonna be a gas, Scape assured me. If you’re into machines and stuff like I am- you’d go for it. People are gonna have all kinds of shit. Do whatever they want with it. That’s why it didn’t faze me when Ol’ Bendray first told me about wanting to blow up the world. Hey- in the future, everybody will want to!”-K.W. Jeter

From this quote, I am tempted to think there will be more wickedness on earth in the future if strict nuclear laws are not adopted to nip the bud of nuclear energy misuse.  As we progress into the future, artificial intelligence, data mining and other sophisticated technologies will render todays laws obsolete. What then can we do to be ahead of the enemies of sanity in the future? We need to be proactive in our approach instead of been reactive when enacting laws.

According to IAEAs new guideline INFCIRC/225/Rev.5 “insiders could take advantage of their access rights, complemented by authority and knowledge to bypass dedicated physical protection elements or other provisions, such as safety procedures” (IAEA, 2011). In the light of this information, future nuclear laws should have clauses that limits the advantage insiders have to bypass nuclear laws. Doing this can help in fishing out conspirators and ensuring that nobody anywhere is above the law.

With the advent of drones, the nuclear sector needs to moderate laws that will guide the use of this machine around nuclear plants and monitor their use in exporting fissile materials by anti-peace agents.

A think-tank needs to be constituted across all sectors around the world to enhance the constitution of robust nuclear laws adaptable to different regions of the world.

The advantages of the internet outweighs its disadvantages but with increasing cyber-attacks, proactive software’s capable of detecting  and protecting nuclear facilities  should be improved upon to beat cyber-attacks.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI 2020), there were at least more than 20 cyber-related incidents at civilian nuclear facilities. It is important for stronger enforcements to be made in the future to discourage laisse-faire attitudes.

From my observation, I noticed that variations between international and national nuclear laws impedes progress globally. It is important for stakeholders to abandon personal interest and work towards global interest in a bid to hasten the harmonization of these laws.

Awareness links also needs to be created so that everyone on earth will be conversant with nuclear laws in the future.

 A study by Chatham House affirmed that “air-gap” is not enough against cyber-attacks (Livingstone et al., 2015) after failures on the part of nuclear workers to ensure security. Research institutes around the world should learn to collaborate with the nuclear sector and lawmakers to birth effective nuclear laws in the future.





Handbook on Nuclear law, IAEA, 2003.


Nuclear Power Generation (Third Edition) Incorporating Modern Power System Practice British Electricity International 1992, pages 484-570


Copyright ©

Author: Ekoja Okewu
I am Ekoja Solomon from Nigeria. I love engaging in writeups that spur humanity into action


Please Login to Comment
No comments have been posted. Be the first.

Hire a Writer