Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage: International Framework
In September 1997, government took a significant step forward in improving the liability régime for nuclear damage. At a Diplomatic Conference at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna, 8-12 September 1997, delegates from over 80 States adopted a Protocol to Amend the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and also adopted a Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. The Protocol sets the possible limit of the operator´s liability at not less than 300 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (roughly equivalent to 400 million US dollars). TheConvention on Supplementary Compensation defines additional amounts to be provided through contributions by States Parties on the basis of installed nuclear capacity and UN rate of assessment. The Convention is an instrument to which all States may adhere regardless of whether they are parties to any existing nuclear liability conventions or have nuclear installations on their territories. The Protocol contains inter alia a better definition of nuclear damage (now also addressing the concept of environmental damage and preventive measures), extends the geographical scope of theVienna Convention, and extends the period during which claims may be brought for loss of life and personal injury. It also provides for jurisdiction of coastal states over actions incurring nuclear damage during transport. Taken together, the two instruments should substantially enhance the global framework for compensation well beyond that foreseen by existing Conventions. Before the action in September 1997, the international liability regime was embodied primarily in two instruments, i.e. the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage of 1963 and the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy of 1960 linked by the Joint Protocol adopted in 1988. The Paris Convention was later built up by the 1963 Brussels Supplementary Convention. These Conventions are based on the civil law concept and share the following main principles:
Following the Chernobyl accident, the IAEA initiated work on all aspects of nuclear liability with a view to improving the basic Conventions and establishing a comprehensive liability regime. In 1988, as a result of joint efforts by the IAEA and OECD/NEA, the Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention was adopted. The Joint Protocol established a link between the Conventions combining them into one expanded liability regime. Parties to the Joint Protocol are treated as though they were Parties to both Conventions and a choice of law rule is provided to determine which of the two Conventions should apply to the exclusion of the other in respect of the same incident.
Date of adoption: 21 May 1963
Place of adoption: Vienna, Austria
Date of entry into force: 12 November 1977
Languages: English, French, Russian and Spanish
Depositary Governments: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)