Meeting to Finalise the Term of Reference of ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM) was held in Bangkok, Thailand on 30 August 2012. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the contents and possibility to initiate the ASEANTOM Term of Reference (TOR). Participants of the meeting consisted of representatives from 10 ASEAN Member States. Countries with representatives from regulatory bodies or related authorities consisted of Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Countries with representatives from their embassies in Thailand consisted of Cambodia, Brunei and The Philippines.
Prof. Dr. Chaivat Toskulkao, Secretary General of Office of Atoms for Peace, Thailand delivered Welcome remarks. The statement emphasised that obligations for safety, security and safeguards should be met on the utilisation of nuclear energy in Southeast Asian countries. Necessary programs to implement the high level of safety standards include; capacity building, emergency response and preparedness, environmental monitoring as well as legislative preparation. Meanwhile, transparent information sharing among regional states on safety measures can also contribute to building confidence of the people. On the occasion of ASEAN Community establishment in 2015, there is no better opportunity for ASEAN Member States to engage in discussions and cooperation at both regional and international level to reinforce such framework in an effective and achievable manner.
Remarks by Mr. Chutintorn Gongsakdi, Deputy Director-General, Department of International Organisations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasised that the nuclear safety, security and safeguards became critical issues, given the growing demand of for nuclear energy within the region, as well as the impact of enhanced connectivity of the ASEAN Community in 2015. The proposed Network will be an essential tool for us to address these critical issues, by encouraging information sharing and promoting transparency amongst nuclear regulatory bodies and relevant agencies on issues of common interest upon consent of Member States. This network will also complement the work of ASEAN’s existing mechanisms, such as ASEAN Nuclear Energy Safety Sub-Sector Network (NEC-SSN), as well as reaffirming the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ).
In reviewing the TOR, in general, the dialogue themes can be classified into scope, involved parties, cooperation mechanism, and the resources. As pointed out, the objective in strengthening nuclear safety, security, and safeguards is very broad. That means the nuclear regulatory work may involve organizations outside the regulators. In fact, 3S is the responsibility of states. The participants, thus, agreed to extend the network to also include bodies in charge of nuclear related matters. Concerning cooperation mechanism, there was a major issue to be addressed. Certain participants are reluctant to have the Network submitting reporting to the Executive Committee of Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. In the end, to avoid political influents, it was agreed that the best suggestion for the time being was to have the Network to deliver the technical report to the ASEAN Commission. Lastly, certain members would like the budget and funding to be addressed more explicitly within the TOR. This was later added to content of the document.