Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (Paris Convention or PC)
Ongoing

RELATED NEWS: The 2004 Protocol to enter into force on 1 January 2022  

A special international regime for nuclear third party liability is necessary since ordinary common law is not well suited to deal with the particular problems in this field. The drafters of the 1960 Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (the “Paris Convention” or PC) set out to provide adequate compensation to the public for damage resulting from a nuclear accident and to ensure that the growth of the nuclear industry would not be hindered by bearing an intolerable burden of liability.

The Convention establishes a special legal regime founded on a number of important principles:

  • The nuclear installation operator is exclusively liable for damage resulting from accidents at its installation or during the transport of nuclear substances to and from that installation.
  • This liability is "strict", as opposed to general tort law which is based on fault or negligence. Under the Paris Convention, a nuclear installation operator is liable, regardless of whether fault can be established.
  • The maximum liability of a nuclear installation operator is SDR 15 million* and the minimum liability is SDR 5 million. However, the NEA has recommended that Paris Convention states set the maximum liability amount to not less than SDR 150 million; most have done so (see Table on Operator Liability Amounts and Financial Security Limits ).
  • The nuclear installation operator must have financial security equivalent to its liability.
  • The right to compensation expires if legal action is not brought within ten years of the nuclear accident.
  • The Convention must be applied without any discrimination based on nationality, domicile or residence.
  • In general, the courts of the state where the nuclear incident occurred deal with compensation claims.

The Paris Convention provides for compensation for injury to or loss of life of any person, and for damage to, or loss of any property caused by a nuclear accident in a nuclear installation or during the transport of nuclear substances to and from installations. It does not cover damage to the nuclear installation itself.

Nuclear installations are defined as: reactors other than those comprised in any means of transport; factories for the manufacture or processing of nuclear substances, for the enrichment of uranium, and for the reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel; and facilities for the storage of nuclear substances. Facilities which do not involve high levels of radioactivity, such as those for uranium mining and milling and for the production of radioisotopes, are covered by general tort law rather than the Convention.

The Paris Convention also applies to nuclear substances in transport from one nuclear operator to another. Liability is, in principle, imposed on the operator sending the nuclear substances since it will normally be responsible for its packing and containment. In the case of transport to or from operators in states that are not party to the Convention, special provisions apply to ensure that an operator to which the Convention regime applies will be liable.

The Paris Convention generally applies when an accident causing damage occurs in the territory of a party and damage from this accident is suffered in the territory of another party, including the territorial sea. In 1968, the NEA Steering Committee recommended that the Convention cover nuclear incidents occurring or nuclear damage suffered on the high seas and in 1971, it recommended that the Convention apply to damage suffered in a Paris Convention states even if the nuclear incident occurs in a state not party to the Convention. Many of the Paris Convention states have adopted these recommendations.

The Paris Convention was adopted under the auspices of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and covers most Western European countries. It is open to any OECD country as of right and to any non-member with the consent of the other contracting parties.

The OECD Secretary-General is the depositary for the Paris Convention, which has been amended by Protocols adopted in 1964, 1982 and 2004.

The 2004 Protocol to amend the Paris Convention has not yet entered into force.

Notes:

*The unit of account used in the Paris Convention is the Special Drawing Right, a unit of account defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) based upon a basket of key international currencies. The currency value of the SDR is calculated daily and the valuation basket is reviewed and adjusted every five years.

Resources

Related Decisions, Recommendations and Interpretations

  • Paris Convention: Decisions, Recommendations, Interpretations (1990)
    English (2.48 MB)   |    French (2.78 MB)
  • Nuclear installations in the process of being decommissioned (2014)
    English (74 KB)       |    French (78 KB)
  • Exclusion of small quantities of nuclear substances outside a nuclear installations (2016)
    English (2015 KB)   |    French (2057 KB)
  • Nuclear installations for the disposal of certain types of low-level radioactive waste (2016)
    English (433 KB)     |    French (522 KB)
  • Definition of “Radioisotopes which have reached the final stage of fabrication” (2018)
    English  (590 KB)     |    French  (587 KB)

Read more

Read more about the Paris Convention on Nuclear Third Party Liability on our Multilateral agreements website. 

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