13 Pac. Rim L. & Pol'y J. 711 (2004)
Russian Floating Nuclear Reactors: Lacunae in Current International Environmental and Maritime Law and the Need for Proactive International Cooperation in the Development of Sustainable Energy Sources

handle is hein.journals/pacrimlp13 and id is 719 raw text is: Copyright C 2004 Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal Association

Douglas John Stedingt
Abstract:  During the second half of 2003, Russia announced plans to build barges
carrying two nuclear reactors capable of supplying electricity to a town of fifty thousand
people. Rapidly developing countries seem particularly interested in this proposal, as
these reactors can meet their growing power needs. In addition, these floating nuclear
reactors provide an alternative to coal, oil and natural gas, all sources of energy that
contribute to global warming. These reactors, however, pose a substantial risk to the
environment, particularly in light of Russia's lax environmental policies, and the design
of the barges themselves make them susceptible to a wide variety of threats.
Currently there are no international legal regimes that would either prescribe
enforceable standards for Russia regarding the design and operation of these reactors, or
impose liability on Russia in the event of an accident and resulting damage to the
environment. All of the relevant treaties administered by the International Atomic
Energy Agency have gaps that preclude them from imposing regulatory duties or liability
on Russia as a state, and its agents, in the event of an accident. Similarly, although both
international customary environmental law and the United Nations Convention on the
Law of the Sea impose upon nations the duty to prevent pollution of the marine
environment, the ability to enforce those duties and impose legal liability for their breach
remains in doubt. Therefore, the international community should either: 1) close the gaps
in current legal regimes (including treaty-based and customary law regimes) 2); develop a
new regime (either based on treaties, or through further development of customary
international law) that would effectively regulate and impose liability for damage to the
environment resulting from an accident involving these reactors; or 3) cooperate in
developing and deploying safer alternative technologies to fulfill the need for power
generation that these floating reactors address. Of these alternatives, the simplest is the
closing of current gaps in treaties, although the most effective may be a combination of
approaches that effectively utilizes the strengths of each alternative.
In the second half of 2003 Russia announced plans to build small
nuclear reactors mounted on barges that would be moored off of multiple
?  Ph.D., Earth Sciences, and Geochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2001; J.D.
University of Washington, expected 2005. The author is grateful for the valuable input of Professor
William H. Rogers, Professor Craig H. Allen, and Assistant Professor Michael Robinson-Dom. Professor
John E. Noyes at California Western School of Law also provided valuable input. Without their guidance,
this comment would not have been possible. In addition, the Editorial Staff of the Pacific Rim Law and
Policy Journal, including Bryn Floyd, Sean Sanada, Lara Fowler, and Matt Senechal provided crucial
editorial assistance.

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