Switzerland revises nuclear liability law

30 March 2015

Switzerland's government has adopted a total revision of the federal ordinance on civil nuclear liability. The ordinance governs the enforcement of the country's new civil nuclear liability law, which was passed by parliament in 2008 but has yet to come into force.

The Federal Council adopted a revision of the ordinance on 25 March, the Swiss Federal Energy Office (SFOE) announced. Under the revision, the minimum coverage to be provided at the national level increased from CHF 1 billion ($1 billion) to €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion), which corresponds to provisions of international civil liability.

The revised ordinance also contains the method of calculating the premiums that nuclear operators must pay for federal insurance. It sets the insurance coverage for nuclear research facilities and federal interim storage facilities at €70 million ($76 million) and for certain shipments of nuclear materials at €80 million ($87 million). It also provides coverage for the transport of nuclear materials separate from coverage for facilities.

SFOE said the revision also simplifies the compensation procedure, improving the protection of Swiss victims in the event of a nuclear incident occurring abroad. It said that in such cases, the conditions for compensation and procedural provisions that would apply to Switzerland would be the same as for all other signatory states to the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability and the Brussels Supplementary Convention.

The proposed revision of the ordinance was developed by a monitoring group comprised of representatives of government, private insurers and nuclear operators. The consultation took place between 15 March and 28 June 2013.

In June 2008, the Swiss parliament passed a new law on civil nuclear liability and approved the revised relevant international conventions. The country subsequently ratified the two conventions in March 2009.

Switzerland's revised nuclear liability law and the revised ordinance cannot come into effect until the revised Paris Protocol and the revised Brussels Supplementary Convention have been ratified by at least two-thirds of the 16 parties to it. SFOE said ratification "will take place in early 2016 at the earliest."

Swiss nuclear trade organisation swissnuclear said the country's nuclear power plant operators "supported the international conventions and thus the adjustment of coverage levels". However, it noted the revised ordinance "burdens the owners of nuclear facilities by the end of the term with unnecessary additional premium costs."

The organization claims the revision means that operators of nuclear facilities will not only have to pay for insurance cover for their plants, but also separate coverage for each transportation of even low-level material. This, it says, "reduces the international competitiveness of the Swiss electricity industry once more."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News