A New Set of Principles for the Nuclear Power Industry

Corporate social responsibility and nuclear power? Indeed. In September, the very first code of conduct for the nuclear power plant industry was launched.

The development of the "Principles of Conduct" was facilitated by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Representatives of all of the major exporters of nuclear power plants participated in the drafting process, which was initiated in 2008. I had the honor of being selected by the Carnegie Endowment to help facilitate the negotiations.

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.

While the Principles were initiated prior to the Fukushima nuclear accident, the completed text reflects certain initial lessons learned from that disaster, especially in the area of safety. At the time of the Principles’ launch, Richard Giordano, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Carnegie Endowment, observed

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. 

I was especially involved in the drafting of Principle 6, which focuses on ethics. Principle 6 helps nuclear exporters meet three primary objectives:

  1. Safeguarding the environment and the wellbeing of communities near nuclear power plants, including through effective communication with those communities;
  2. Respecting human rights, including the fundamental labor rights of employees; and
  3. Fighting corruption.

Principle 6 is important because it addresses measures to mitigate the potential effects of nuclear power on communities and the environment. Principle 6 states that the exporters will work with their customers to consult with communities near nuclear power plants regarding the social and environmental effects of planned activities. The exporters also agree to take sustainable development into account in their activities.

Principle 6 also states that the exporters will respect the fundamental labor rights of their employees, including the right to collective bargaining. They also pledge to respect the Universal Declaration on Human Rights — a commitment which has implications for their interactions not only with employees, but also with communities and other stakeholders.

Finally, Principle 6 addresses the challenge of corruption, which can arise in the context of large infrastructure projects. The exporters commit to having internal programs in place to fight corruption, and to seek a reciprocal commitments from customers.

The Principles represent a significant new development for the nuclear industry.  As stated on the Principles’  website

The Principles of Conduct reflect a recent trend in the management of global challenges. Leading industries, including those in the oil and gas, apparel and pharmaceutical sectors, increasingly have recognized the value of their reputations as socially responsible actors to their long-term business success.

Ultimately, the launch of these new Principles reflects a convergence of international expectations regarding corporate behavior and self-discipline: companies in every industry are expected to demonstrate responsible stewardship with regard to the social and environmental impacts of their operations.

To date, the following companies have adopted the Principles:

  • 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the following equation: *