The 1986 accident at Chernobyl demonstrated that there was a need to increase the amounts of liability and to broaden the types of damage that were provided for in the existing nuclear liability regime. In response to that need, a major international modernization effort was undertaken, with the intent of ensuring that victims in all countries affected by a nuclear accident would be accorded equitable compensation for damage suffered. Within a little more than ten years, several significant initiatives had been taken, the most recent of which was the revision of both the Paris Convention and the Brussels Supplementary Convention. On 12 February 2004 the contracting parties to these conventions adopted the Protocol to Amend the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy of 29 July 1960, as amended. The 2004 Protocol has not yet entered into force.
Under the revised Paris Convention, the amount of a nuclear operator's liability is increased to an amount not less than EUR 700 million. In addition, the amended Paris Convention will officially recognise, for the first time, that a state with an unlimited liability regime may participate in the scheme established by the Convention.
Paris Convention states may continue to fix reduced liability amounts for low-risk nuclear installations and transport activities, but the minimum amounts will be raised to minimums of EUR 70 million for low-risk installations and EUR 80 million for transport activities.
Operators will still be required to financially secure their liability, but for states with unlimited liability regimes, that security must equal either EUR 700 million or a reduced liability amount, whichever is applicable. Parties to the revised Paris Convention will also be required to ensure the payment of nuclear damage claims where the operator's financial security is unavailable or insufficient, up to the liability amount specified in the Convention.
|Operator liability amounts under the revised Paris Convention|
|Before revision||After revision|
|Basic liability or "reference amount"||SDR 15 million maximum||EUR 700 million minimum|
|Reduced liability amounts|
|Transport||SDR 5 million minimum||EUR 80 million minimum|
|Low-risk installations||SDR 5 million minimum||EUR 70 million minimum|
The amended Paris Convention will cover a broader range of damage than is currently the case. In addition to personal injury and property damage, the revised Convention includes certain types of economic loss, the cost of measures to reinstate a significantly impaired environment, loss of income resulting from that impaired environment and the cost of preventive measures, including loss or damage caused by such measures.
The revised Paris Convention will also apply to more nuclear installations, including those that are in the course of being decommissioned and all nuclear installations for the disposal of nuclear substances Nevertheless, Paris Convention States may exclude a particular disposal facility in the post-closure phase from the application of the Convention where it no longer poses a significant risk and is therefore no longer under active surveillance.
Under the existing Paris Convention, a nuclear incident must occur in the territory of a Contracting Party and damage must be suffered there before the Convention will apply. Under the Protocol, the Paris Convention will also apply to nuclear damage suffered in a non-Convention State (including its territories and maritime zones) if (a) it is a party to the Vienna Convention and the 1988 Joint Protocol, or (b) it has no nuclear installations or (c) its nuclear liability legislation affords equivalent reciprocal benefits and is based on principles identical to those contained in the Paris Convention.
Under the revised Paris Convention, prescription and extinction periods for nuclear damage claims will be extended to 30 years for actions respecting loss of life and personal injury. Longer periods are possible under certain circumstances.
The revised Paris Convention will recognize the concerns of coastal states which allow maritime shipments of nuclear substances through their waters by including provisions to ensure that where a nuclear incident occurs in the exclusive economic zone of a Paris Convention state, jurisdiction over claims for nuclear damage arising from that incident shall lie only with the courts of that coastal state.
Last reviewed: 11 July 2017