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International Legal Framework for Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage

Webinar Series on Nuclear Law

Date and time

Tuesday, 24 November 2020
2:00 pm
Europe Time (Berlin, GMT+01:00)

Register here →

Nuclear incidents, although assessed to have a low risk of occurrence, may cause major nuclear damage triggering very large claims for compensation. Such claims may include damage occurring outside the territory of the State in which a nuclear incident has taken place, and complex evidentiary questions may arise from the fact that health effects of radiation exposure may only manifest themselves long after such an incident. For these and other reasons, the traditional rules of third-party liability, or tort law, have been deemed inadequate to deal with the compensation of persons suffering damage as a result of a nuclear incident, and a specific legal regime has been considered necessary. As a result, special rules have been adopted in both national laws and international treaties to regulate third-party liability for nuclear damage.

At the international level, several treaties have been adopted since the 1960s in the area of civil liability for nuclear damage. The so-called ‘Vienna regime’, i.e. the regime adopted under IAEA auspices, consists of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear damage (Vienna Convention), and the 1997 Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention. The so-called ‘Paris regime’, currently under the auspices of the OECD, consists of the 1960 Paris Convention on Third-Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (Paris Convention) and the 2004 Protocol to Amend the Paris Convention (not yet in force). These two regimes are linked by the 1988 Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention, which was adopted under the joint auspices of the IAEA and the OECD. In addition, a supplementary compensation system is envisaged for the Paris Convention by the 1963 Brussels Convention Supplementary to the Paris Convention (Brussels Convention) and the 2004 Protocol to Amend the Brussels Convention (not yet in force). Finally, at the world level, a supplementary compensation system is also envisaged by the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which was adopted under the auspices of the IAEA and aims at serving as un ‘umbrella’ open to States that are party to different regimes but having national legislation conforming to the same basic principles of civil liability for nuclear damage. In fact, despite the multiplicity of existing treaties, the underlying basic principles of civil liability for nuclear damage are the same.

This webinar will identify these basic nuclear liability principles, as well as the objectives and scope of application of the existing treaties. Recent developments in this field will also be highlighted. For example, following the 11 March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the 2011 IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety specifically called on the IAEA International Expert group on Nuclear Liability (INLEX) to recommend actions to facilitate a global nuclear liability regime that addresses the concern of all States that might be affected by a nuclear accident, with a view to providing appropriate compensation for nuclear damage. These recommendations were finalized by INLEX in 2012.

By the end of this webinar, participants should be able to:

  • Recall the basic nuclear liability principles;
  • Identify the nuclear liability treaties, in particular those adopted under the IAEA auspices, their objective and their scope of application, including their so-called 'geographical scope';
  • Distinguish between the instruments adopted in the 1960s and the modernized and new instruments adopted in the 1990s;
  • Understand the compensable heads of damage and the minimum compensation amounts under those treaties;
  • Understand how those treaties approach liability for damage caused by an incident in the course of transport of nuclear material.


Andrea Gioia, IAEA


Wolfram Tonhauser, IAEA

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