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Increasing Understanding of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage

Over 50 participants from 35 countries attended the Fifth Workshop on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on 23 May 2016. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Understanding the ins and outs of civil liability and compensation in case of nuclear damage is key if a nuclear incident affects several States, learned participants at this week’s IAEA workshop on the legal aspects of nuclear liability and the international legal instruments available.

“For engineers, some of these legal and liability issues are not so intuitive, but it is still something I have to deal with at work,” said Josip Lebegner, Deputy Director at Hrvatska Elektroprivreda, a Croatian utility company that is also co-owner of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant in Slovenia. “Thanks to this workshop, I am now much more familiar with the nuclear liability principles. This kind of knowledge helps when dealing with our national authorities and with companies interested in working with the Krško plant.”

The 54 participants at the workshop, which is held annually, included diplomats and experts from 35 Member States. Presentations covered the principles of nuclear liability and their continuing relevance and the international legal instruments on civil liability for nuclear damage adopted under IAEA auspices.

The goal of the workshop is to facilitate the establishment of treaty relations between Member States, so that in case of an accident the legal basis for cross-border liability will have been established, said Peri Johnson, the IAEA’s Legal Adviser and Director of the Office of Legal Affairs. “Legal clarity is important and will simplify matters significantly,” she said.

“The workshop provided me with the opportunity to share experiences and to talk about which legal instruments other countries have adhered to and what they are planning to do next,” said Dang Anh Thu, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Division at the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (VARANS). “This information is particularly beneficial with respect to neighbouring countries, so we can better coordinate and work together.”

The workshop included a roundtable discussion on topical issues of nuclear liability, moderated by legal experts from the IAEA and the International Expert Group on Nuclear Liability (INLEX). It covered, among others, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, civil liability for nuclear damage from the perspective of coastal States, the role of insurance, and the IAEA's legislative assistance programme available to Member States.

The IAEA provides legislative assistance to Member States in drafting new rules and regulations, Johnson told participants. “We work to raise awareness of and facilitate Member States’ entry to the legal regime in any way we can. We hope that the participants will take away the message that it is important for States to consider joining one or more of the existing nuclear liability conventions.”

The first workshop on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage was held in 2012, as part of the implementation of the IAEA's Action Plan on Nuclear Safety.

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