The UK government is to substantially increase the third party liabilities of nuclear plant operators in the event of an accident, bringing them into line with previously agreed amendments to the Paris and Brussels conventions.
The UK is party to both the Paris and supplementary Brussels convention (as amended in 1984), and domestic laws are embodied in the Nuclear Installations Act of 1965. The proposals aim to put the existing UK legislation in line with amendments to the conventions adopted in 2004. The government conducted a consultation on the implementation of the changes to the conventions between 24 January and 28 April 2011.
"This is an important step in transferring the cost of nuclear third party liability from taxpayers to operators, particularly as we move forward with new nuclear."
Charles Hendry, UK energy minister
Operator liability is currently limited to £140 million ($224 million) per incident, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). However, the government plans to increase this to €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) "to ensure that more compensation will be available to a larger number of claimants in respect of a broader range of damage." This, DECC noted, is €500 million ($664 million) more than the minimum necessary under the revised conventions.
The new level of liability will be phased in over five years, starting at €700 million ($930 million) when the new law comes into force and increasingly by €100 million ($133 million) annually. The changes will apply to existing nuclear operators in the UK, as well as any potential new build operators.
DECC said that a liability level of €70 million ($93 million) will apply to low risk sites - up from the current £10 million ($16 million) - while a level of €80 million ($106 million) would apply for low risk transport of nuclear materials.
The government intends to amend legislation to implement the changes later this year. All signatory states are expected to ratify the revised conventions between late 2012 and early 2013, after which the new legislation will come into force.
Energy minister Charles Hendry said, "This is an important step in transferring the cost of nuclear third party liability from taxpayers to operators, particularly as we move forward with new nuclear."
The UK's Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said, "We welcome that the government has reached a conclusion on the Paris-Brussels nuclear liabilities arrangements and fully support the decision to increase liability to €1.2 billion." It added, "The conclusion of this consultation serves to provide further certainty to the companies involved both in new nuclear build and the existing program."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News