Initiative for global liability

30 August 2013

The prospect of a worldwide regime to give compensation in case of a nuclear accident with cross-border impacts may be more feasible with cooperation from France and the USA.

The two important nuclear nations committed to encourage other countries to adhere to current treaties, and to bring into force the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) - the treaty specially designed to bring about a global regime. This requires at least five countries with a total of 400,000 MWt nuclear capacity to have signed and ratified. The USA is already a member and France joining would fulfil both criteria.

France and the USA had previously held fundamentally incompatible views, each championing a favoured existing treaty as the basis for an expanded regime. Now the nations will urge other countries to adopt national laws that make sure sufficient funds will be available to compensate all victims, even in countries without nuclear power plants; that compensation is available in the event that an accident is the direct result of a natural disaster; and that compensation for latent injuries is available for 30 years. They said their aim was to "create the worldwide trust necessary for the development of nuclear energy and associated industrial activities."

Conventional wisdom

Early users of nuclear power recognised that an accident could have cross-border impacts and various treaties have been drawn up over time to facilitate compensation for people affected by an accident in another country. All existing treaties already channel all liability for an accident to the operator of a nuclear power plant and ensure certain funds are always available.

The OECD-sponsored Paris Convention and Brussels Convention are popular in Western Europe and favoured by France, while the IAEA-sponsored Vienna convention is popular in Eastern Europe and elsewhere around the world. Some countries have signed a Joint Protocol to link those two treaties. The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) was designed to become a global regime and is open to countries without nuclear power plants. This has been signed and ratified by a few countries, notably the USA which says it is the only treaty it can support.

Countries not party to any treaty include Canada, China, Japan and South Korea, while India has signed the CSC but it is not clear if it is compatible with its new domestic liability laws. The European Commission is currently carrying out a public consultation on potential common rules at EU level on insurance and compensation for nuclear accidents.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News