The uses and applications of nuclear technology in the ASEAN region have been on the increase in various areas. Most evidently, several ASEAN Member States have planned/initiated their nuclear power programmes to meet their increasing demands for energy. While promoting the uses of nuclear energy, it must be noted that impacts of a nuclear accident can be transboundary – as clearly reflected by the Fukushima accident in 2011. Therefore, cooperation on nuclear issues among countries in the region is essential.
The establishment of a network amongst nuclear regulatory bodies or relevant authorities of ASEAN Member States will correspond to need to promote safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the region. On the occasion of 50th anniversary of Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) in 2011, OAP hosted the International Conference on Safety, Security and Safeguards in Nuclear Energy in Bangkok, Thailand. From the conference, OAP learned that all of Southeast Asian countries share a common goal in achieving high level of public safety and confidence in nuclear- and radiation-related issues. The idea of establishing the network of regulatory bodies on atomic energy amongst ASEAN countries was also proposed in an informal consultation and received positive feedbacks from the ASEAN colleagues.
Recognising the importance of nuclear safety, security and safeguards within the region, as well as the crucial role of nuclear regulatory bodies or relevant authorities in enhancing cooperation in these issues, ASEAN Leaders, during the 20th ASEAN Summit in 2012, welcomed the idea to develop a network amongst nuclear regulatory bodies or relevant authorities in the region, which would enable regulators to exchange nuclear related information and experiences on best practices, enhance cooperation and develop capacities on all three aspects, namely, nuclear safety, security and safeguards. Such a network would be called the ASEAN Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy (ASEANTOM).
OAP hosted the Meeting to Finalize the Term of Reference of ASEANTOM on 30 August 2012. This meeting was the initial step for ASEAN Member States to work together to finalise the TOR of ASEANTOM to enhance the growth of knowledge and resources to ensure the safety, security and safeguards for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
In 2013, Thailand hosted the 1st Meeting of ASEANTOM during 3 – 4 September 2013 to facilitate the information exchange and the cooperation in the area of nuclear safety, security and safeguards amongst the Member States, and to set up the work plan of the network. The Action Plan of ASEANTOM is the outcome of the meeting.
In 2014, the 2nd ASEANTOM Meeting during 25 – 27 August 2014 was held in Chiang Mai province of Thailand. The meeting reviewed activities conducted during the past year and discussed further activities under the work plan for 2015 – 2016. These activities include a number of regional workshops and training courses on emergency preparedness and response as well as on nuclear security culture and management.
In 2015, Malaysia hosted the 3rd Meeting of ASEANTOM on 20 August 2015 to review activities conducted in the past and discuss further activities under the ASEANTOM work plan for 2016 – 2017. This includes the implementation of the four-year IAEA-ASEANTOM regional cooperation project beginning in 2016, to support the development of a regional environmental radioactivity database and a nuclear emergency preparedness and response framework in Southeast Asia – later known as RAS9077.
On 23 December 2015, the ASEANTOM had been designated as a sectoral body under the ASEAN Political-Security Community as stated in the Annex I of the ASEAN Charter. The ASEANTOM reports to the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (ASEAN SOM) and acts as the
In 2017, the Philippines hosted the 4th Meeting of ASEANTOM during 7 – 8 December 2017. The meeting initiated the ideas and discussion on establishing an official ASEANTOM website, formation of ASEANTOM secretariat, 5-year ASEANTOM work plan and regional project proposals.
In 2018, Singapore hosted the 5th Meeting of ASEANTOM during 26 – 28 June 2018 to finalise the issues from the previous meeting, as well as to review the draft Practical Arrangements between IAEA and ASEAN on Cooperation in the Areas of Nuclear Science and Technology and Applications, Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards.