Although no country in ASEAN currently uses nuclear power, nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness remains essential in minimising the impacts of incidents and emergencies involving nuclear and radiological materials. It is also necessary to ensure that radiological materials used for peaceful purposes do not fall into the hands of people with malicious and criminal intentions. Furthermore, any radiological security incidents and even security threats to NPPs in several Asia-Pacific countries may trigger radioactive leaks and emergencies that can reach Southeast Asia.
Through ASEANTOM, ASEAN is pursuing work to enhance nuclear and radiological emergency preparedness and response. ASEANTOM has ongoing regional projects, with the United States, South Korea, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear security and nuclear emergency preparedness and response. These projects are essential at both national and regional levels to protect the people and the environment in case of nuclear or radiological accidents. Within ASEAN, a broad consensus has formed that a regional approach to nuclear emergency preparedness and response would complement national frameworks and capabilities. ASEANTOM’s work is promising, but there is room to deepen and expand this work, for example by bringing in countries from the wider Asia-Pacific.
To this end, the ASEAN-wide network of radiation monitoring stations should be completed and extended to include other Asia-Pacific nations; a regional nuclear crisis centre should be established; and the hitherto untested ASEAN Protocol for Preparedness and Response to a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency should be put into practice by conducting regional exercises on CBRN and disaster response.
About the Author
Julius Cesar I. Trajano is Research Fellow with the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is a member of the leadership team of the International Nuclear Security Education Network and of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific – Nuclear Energy Experts Group. His latest publications include Nuclear Governance in the Asia Pacific (Routledge, 2022) and “Ready for Nuclear Energy? A Policy Review of the Philippines’ Nuclear Energy Plan and Participation in the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy” (International Journal of Nuclear Security, 2022).