• Offered by ANU Law School
  • ANU College ANU College of Law
  • Course subject Laws
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr William Boothby
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in Summer Session 2023
    Spring Session 2023
    See Future Offerings

The horrors that a nuclear conflict could unleash upon the world were made plain in 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The intervening 76 years have seen a significant increase in the number of states known or believed to possess such weapons, and a continuing reliance, pivotal during the Cold War but no less important in the post-Cold War era, on nuclear deterrence as a factor in maintaining peace among the global powers. Given the proliferation of nuclear weapons that has taken place, there is a recognizable need for mutual assurance among States, both nuclear and otherwise. A key contributing element in that required mutual assurance is nuclear command, control and communications (NC3). Put simply, the global community needs to be assured that all nuclear weapon-armed States have effective and robust NC3 arrangements in place. But what are the rules that regulate this most terrifying of weapons?


This course will take students logically through the diverse elements of the applicable law showing how that law can make sense in the extreme circumstances of nuclear war. After examining ideas of sovereignty and jurisdiction, we will consider the law as it applies respectively to the resort to the use of nuclear force and to the conduct of nuclear operations during an armed conflict. International crimes, neutrality and national doctrine will be addressed and the continued relevance, or otherwise, of a pivotal opinion of the International Court of Justice, dating from the mid-1990s, will be assessed. We will review the significance of a treaty, adopted a few years ago, that would ban nuclear weapons and in a concluding session, we will try to draw conclusions for the future of NC3.


The course is structured into ten lectures, taking a distinct topic within each lecture. In the associated seminars, course members will work through practical problems in sub-groups thereafter presenting and discussing their proposed solutions in the plenary setting. Some background understanding of international law as it affects conflict would be a desirable advantage, but the course can and will be taught on the basis of no prior knowledge.


The intended learning outcomes include the ability to think, discuss and formulate solutions at the strategic level, an understanding of the challenges posed by the peculiar characteristics of nuclear weapons, an appreciation of the legal and political realities that influence national nuclear policies and a recognition of the global issues that arise when addressing a weapon the very existence of which arouses such widespread concern.

Students undertaking this course can expect to see the challenges posed by nuclear weapons in a sharper light than hitherto.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Investigate and critically assess how international law impacts on nuclear weapons policy.
  2. Critically reflect on how notions of sovereignty, state responsibility and the use of force can be applied to the possession and use of nuclear weapons.
  3. Review and evaluate how the law on the conduct of hostilities constrains nuclear warfare options.
  4. Critically analyse the prohibition of indiscriminate nuclear attacks and the precautions in attack that are required to achieve compliance with the principle of distinction.
  5. Research and reflect on the various methods of nuclear warfare, on the importance and relevant rules of neutrality law and on reprisals.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Two Blog Posts (1200 words) (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. End-of-course think-piece (1200 words) (20) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Research essay (3000 words) (50) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  4. Multiple choice test (10) [LO 1,2,3,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Approximately 24 hours of face to face teaching, usually taught as an intensive. The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours. Click here for the LLM Masters Program timetable.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a: Master of Laws (MLLM) and have completed or be completing LAWS8586 Law and Legal Institutions; or Graduate Certificate of Law (CLAW) and have completed or be completing LAWS8586 Law and Legal Institutions; or Graduate Certificate of New Technology Law (CNTL); or Juris Doctor (MJD), have completed or be completing five 1000 or 6100 level LAWS courses; Students undertaking any ANU graduate program may apply for this course. Enrolments are accepted on a case-by-case basis. Please contact the ANU College of Law for permission code.

Prescribed Texts

W H Boothby and W Heintschel von Heinegg, Nuclear Weapons Law, (CUP) (2021).

Preliminary Reading

Readings/E brick will be made available on Wattle two weeks prior to the course commencement date.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $4860
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $6180
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Summer Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
1552 30 Jan 2023 31 Jan 2023 10 Feb 2023 16 Mar 2023 Online View

Spring Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6527 25 Sep 2023 26 Sep 2023 06 Oct 2023 09 Nov 2023 Online View

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