Legal Implications of Nuclear Propulsion for Space Objects
This paper is intended to examine nuclear propulsion concepts such as "Project Orion", "Project Daedalus", NERVA, VASIMIR, from the legal point of view. The UN Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space apply to nuclear power sources in outer space devoted to the generation of electric power on board space objects for non-propulsive purposes, and do not regulate the use of nuclear energy as a means of propulsion. However, nuclear propulsion by means of detonating atomic bombs (ORION) is, in principle, banned under the 1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water. The legality of use of nuclear propulsion will be analysed from different approaches - historical (i.e. the lawfulness of these projects at the time of their proposal, at the present time, and in the future - in the light of the mutability and evolution of international law), spatial (i.e. the legal regime governing peaceful nuclear explosions in different spatial zones - Earth atmosphere, Earth orbit, Solar System, and interstellar space), and technical (i.e, the legal regime applicable to different nuclear propulsion techniques, and to the various negative effects - e.g. damage to other space systems as an effect of the electromagnetic pulse, etc). The paper will analyse the positive law, and will also come with suggestions "de lege ferenda".
IAF abstracts, 34th COSPAR Scientific Assembly
- Pub Date:
- January 2002