US Ratification of Nuclear Liability Treaty Sets "New Dynamic"
Convention Would Hold Operators Liable for Possible Accident Victims
US Ambassador Gregory Schulte delivers the instruments of ratification for the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage at IAEA headquarters. At right, Johan Rautenbach, Director of the IAEA´s Office of Legal Affairs, accepts the documents on behalf of the IAEA. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)
A key treaty that governs global civil nuclear liability marked an important milestone this week, as the United States ratified the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. Upon entry into force, the CSC would establish a uniform global legal regime for the compensation of victims in the unlikely event of a nuclear accident.
"With the US ratification, only one or two more are needed to bring the CSC into effect," said US Ambassador Gregory Schulte, who deposited the US instruments of ratification on 21 May in Vienna. "We believe this Convention is vital to the continued growth of nuclear power worldwide and we urge all interested parties to act as quickly as possible."
The CSC not only provides for meaningful compensation for citizens in States that have nuclear power plants online, but also makes important provisions for compensation of damages incurred across international borders.
The US ratification brings the tally of CSC Contracting States to four. In addition to the US, Argentina, Morocco and Romania have ratified the CSC; 13 States in total are currently signatories to the Convention. All States are free to participate in the Convention regardless of their involvement in existing nuclear liability conventions or the presence of nuclear installations on their territories.
"The US ratification introduces a new dynamic in the process of establishing a global nuclear liability regime, which is particularly important given the anticipated growth in nuclear power around the world," said Johan Rautenbach, Director of the IAEA´s Office of Legal Affairs.
"We hope that the US ratification will act as encouragement to other countries, particularly those with large nuclear power industries, to enter into CSC ratification," said Rautenbach.
The CSC is consistent with principles set forth in previous international agreements governing nuclear liability, including the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy. The CSC provides a bridge between these two regimes and establishes an international fund to increase the amount available to compensate victims.
The CSC also allows for compensating civil damage occurring within a State´s exclusive economic zone, including loss of tourism or fisheries related income. It also sets parameters on a nuclear operator´s financial liability, time limits governing possible legal action, requires that nuclear operators maintain insurance or other financial security measures and provides for a single competent court to hear claims.
Adopted on 12 September 1997, the Convention was opened for signature at the IAEA´s 41st General Conference at Vienna that same month. The Convention is set to enter into force on the ninetieth day after date of ratification by at least five States who have a minimum of 400,000 units of installed nuclear capacity.