Friday, October 14, 2011

Boldly going where no nuclear has gone before.

I’ve noted before that nuclear power is not likely going away anytime soon. As a Techie and a Trekkie, I have high hopes for nuclear power leading to the next great breakthrough in intergalactic propulsion. I want my kids not only make it to the moon, I hope they make it to “where no man or woman has gone before.”

Is that too much to ask?

It would be if we had no collective conscience and our nuclear operations are still driven by an arms race. But I found out today that our corporate sponsors and NGOs have been working on a instrument of “Principles of Conduct” with regards to nuclear power since 2008.

The Principles of Conduct was facilitated by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Participation came from various entities including law firms (one of which writes a regular blog I follow).

The Principles set forth expectations in the following areas:

1. Safety, Health, and Radiological Protection;
2. Physical Security;
3. Environmental Protection and the Handling of Spent Fuel and Nuclear Waste;
4. Compensation for Nuclear Damage;
5. Nonproliferation and Safeguards; and
6. Ethics.

The instrument began its drafting before the Fukushima disaster and naturally it incorporated the lessons learned from the disaster.

“Whatever lessons particular countries draw from Fukushima over time, new nuclear plants will continue to be built, some in countries that have only recently begun to utilize nuclear power. It is therefore imperative that nuclear energy is implemented safely and responsibly in both emerging and developed markets.”

Richard Giordano, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Carnegie Endowment

Principle 6, according to Mr. Gare Smith, attorney at Foley Hoag LLP (who also help drafted this particular provision), focuses on Corporate Social Responsibility and ethics. The provision calls for safety and wellbeing of the communities near the plants including effective (mandatory?) communication with the members of that community. It also calls for respect for human rights declared in the UDHR and fundamental labor rights protected by various International human Rights instruments.

Mr. Gare also stated “fighting corruption” as one of the primary concerns. The provision states nuclear operations will

[h]ave in place internal programs to discourage corruption and encourage compliance with anticorruption laws, such as those implementing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and/or the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, and seek to obtain a reciprocal commitment from Customers . . . .

To date, the following companies have adopted the Principles:

• AREVA
• ATMEA (an AREVA-Mitsubishi joint venture)
• Atomstroyexport
• Candu Energy (the successor exporting company to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited)
• GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
• Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy
• Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO)
• Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (including Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems, a subsidiary)
• Toshiba
• Westinghouse Electric Company
The question from here is how many more will voluntarily commit themselves to the instrument and these Principles? Will these Principles rise to the level of international law at some point? Will country like China be open to this kind of thinking?

As a side note, I've been spending a lot of time trying to write my law review note. One of the point I want to make is that China has a rich history of Corporate Social Responsibility but the principles are largely forgotten due to the modern era warfare and transition into a People's Republic. There is no reason, however, that China cannot bring back its Confucius style CSR implemented for the modern society. If that should be the case, I hope, The Chinese Communist Part and the Chinese government ought to implement a uniquely Chinese CSR type nuclear Principles to govern its many operations. Same should apply to its other energy sectors.

In fact, I believe every sector of the free market economy ought to implement some sort of CSR Principles, not only because it's the right thing to do, but also because it may just drive up profit and help sustain the business and social model long enough for my kids or grand kids to fly to Alpha Centauri.

"Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again"
Make it so Number One.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise

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