Projects on Nuclear Energy and Global Governance, conducted at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne

About the Projects

Project on Cultivating Better Asia-Pacific Nuclear Governance

  • Project duration: June 2016-June 2017 
  • Project Staff: Principal investigator: Dr Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, School of Social & Political Sciences, University of Melbourne; Research Assistants: Anthony Heath, Jenna Parker, Zhongzhou Peng 
  • Background Nuclear governance in the Asia-Pacific region is currently ad hoc, patchy and largely uncoordinated. This is unsustainable given that economic growth across the Asia-Pacific is leading to greater use of nuclear materials and radioactive sources and in some countries a renewed interest in nuclear energy for electricity generation. For the legacy nuclear energy programs in Northeast Asia the problem of nuclear waste and spent fuel is being poorly addressed. Continuing reprocessing and enrichment programs will produce more waste and nuclear transport. Small island states in the South Pacific are vulnerable to trafficking and other illicit activities.  

    Although there have been many attempts over the years to strengthen nuclear governance in the region, these invariably encounter roadblocks that stymie real progress and often result in cosmetic or temporary changes. Some of these blockages are strategic (notably the fraught relationship between Japan and its neighbours), some are cultural (differing attitudes towards governance and regulation) and some are technical (the vastly different nuclear capacities, plans and interests of states).                  

    But mostly the lack of progress is due to a lack of political support for strengthening governance due to concerns about protecting states’ sovereignty and economic interests. In some cases this is compounded by a lack of awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism and other risks associated with the use of nuclear energy. There has been little policy-oriented research on Asia-Pacific nuclear governance that is comprehensive— covering safety, safeguards, security and peaceful uses—and which seeks to identify systematically what the roadblocks to progress are and how these might be removed. This project sought to begin filling this gap. 
  • Goals of the project 1) survey the current extent of Asia-Pacific nuclear governance―the existing treaties, organizations, arrangements, networks and norms—as well as the region’s place within and contribution to global nuclear governance 2) seek to understand the strategic, political, cultural, managerial and technical obstacles to strengthening regional nuclear governance 3) assess the current and future capacity of governments, industry, civil society and academia to enhance and manage nuclear governance in the region, and 4) propose ways in which regional nuclear governance might be strengthened. 
  • Research methods 1) examine existing documentation and literature 2) engage with existing regional networks 3) consult widely with regional nuclear stakeholder states and relevant international organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and 4) convene a regional workshop to engender ideas for building regional nuclear governance. 
  • The Workshop The workshop was convened in cooperation with the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore on 9 March 2017, involving some 20 regional and extra-regional experts. See workshop round-up by Jenna Parker, program, list of participants and key questions tackled. 
  • The Report A two-part research report (part I; part II), Asia-Pacific Nuclear Governance Architecture and How to Strengthen It by Trevor Findlay, was published in June 2017 by the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN). The report sets out the issues, surveys the existing nuclear governance system that applies in the Asia-Pacific, analyzes the various roadblocks to strengthening it and makes proposals for how to proceed. 
  • The Survey A unique, comprehensive survey of all Asia-Pacific organizations and arrangements involved in nuclear governance was launched in June 2017. It was compiled by Anthony Heath, Jenna Parker and Zhongzhou Peng. It will be continuously updated. We welcome comments and edit. Please email to  
  • Other Project Activities 
    • Presentation by Trevor Findlay on ‘Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog: Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA’, Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore, 16 November 2016
    • Presentation by Trevor Findlay on ‘Asia-Pacific Nuclear Governance’, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 
    • Presentation by Trevor Findlay on ‘Asia-Pacific Nuclear Governance: Fragile, Fragmented but Fixable?’, 21 March 2017, at Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Acknowledgements · Funding for the project was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  The Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore, co-sponsored the 9 March workshop. The School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, housed the project and provided administrative support.     

Project on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Security after the Nuclear Security Summits

More information is coming soon...

Project Director

  • Dr Trevor Findlay is a Senior Research Fellow at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is also chair of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters for 2017 and a member of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN).   

    Professor Findlay’s varied career has encompassed the diplomatic service, academia, the non-governmental sector and international organizations. He was a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs at Harvard University from 2011 to 2015 and remains an Associate there with the Project on Managing the Atom. From 2005 to 2015 he was a tenured professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and holder of the William and Jeanie Barton Chair in International Affairs. During that time he was also director of the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). He remains a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at Carleton.    

    Dr Findlay has a BA Honours from the University of Melbourne in political science and a Masters and PhD in international relations from the Australian National University (ANU). He spent 13 years in the Australian Foreign Service, with postings to Tokyo, Mexico City and Geneva. Specializing in disarmament, he represented Australia at the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Disarmament Commission and the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. He was subsequently Acting Director of the Peace Research Centre at the ANU for two years; project leader on peacekeeping and regional security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); and Executive Director of the London-based Verification Research Training & Information Centre (VERTIC) for 7 years.  

    Dr Findlay is widely published in the fields of nuclear disarmament and arms control, nuclear testing, nuclear safeguards, chemical and biological disarmament and peacekeeping. His current research focuses on nuclear governance, including nuclear security, nuclear safety and non-proliferation, both at the global level and in the Asia-Pacific region. His widely cited report, Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog: Strengthening and Reform of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was published in 2012 by CIGI. Dr Findlay's most recent book is Nuclear Energy and Global Governance: Ensuring Safety, Security and Nonproliferation (London: Routledge, 2011). His studies for Harvard include: Beyond Nuclear Summitry: The Role of the IAEA in Nuclear Security Diplomacy after 2016 (March 2014); Proliferation Alert! The IAEA and Non-Compliance Reporting (October 2015) and What Price Nuclear Governance? Funding the IAEA (March 2016). He is currently completing a three-year study on safeguards culture for Harvard and is writing a book on the IAEA and nuclear crises.