Programme of work
Ongoing

Programme summary

The NEA Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) helps create sound national and international legal regimes required for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including as regards nuclear safety, international trade in nuclear materials and equipment, public engagement, issues of liability and compensation for nuclear damage, and to serve as a leading centre for nuclear law information and education.

To achieve this goal, the OLC:

  • assists member countries in the development, strengthening and harmonisation of nuclear legislation and regulation in areas such as nuclear safety, radioactive waste management and environmental law (as applied to nuclear activities) based upon internationally accepted principles and in line with international binding instruments for the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy;
  • contributes to the modernisation of the international nuclear liability regimes and encourages the strengthening of treaty relations between interested countries to address liability and compensation for nuclear damage; and
  • collects, analyses and disseminates information on nuclear law generally and on topical nuclear legal issues in particular.

The OLC also provides legal support to NEA management, as well as for NEA programmes and projects and acts as the depositary on behalf of the OECD Secretary-General for international legal instruments adopted under OECD/NEA auspices.

Developing, strengthening, and harmonising nuclear legislation

The OLC supports the Nuclear Law Committee (NLC) in working to help ensure sound national and international legal regimes required for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including in the field of liability and compensation for nuclear damage, nuclear safety, international trade in nuclear materials and equipment, as well as public engagement. It also facilitates the integration of non-members in NLC work, as approved in the NEA Participation Plan for co-operation with non-members; and assisting members in implementing nuclear law assistance programmes in non-member countries. The OLC supports the NLC working parties, i.e. the Working Party on the Legal Aspects of Nuclear Safety (WPLANS), the Working Party on Nuclear Liability and Transport (WPNLT), as well as the Working Party on Deep Geological Repositories and Nuclear Liability (WPDGR), which has been established in co-ordination with the Committee on Radiological Protection and Public Health (CRPPH) and the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC).

Application, interpretation and modernisation of the international nuclear liability regimes

The OLC works with the NLC and the Contracting Parties to the Paris Convention to help member countries to interpret, apply and modernise the international nuclear liability conventions and foster progress towards a global liability and compensation regime.

It encourages ratification and implementation of the 2004 Protocols to Amend the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy and the Brussels Convention Supplementary to the Paris Convention, as well as ratification of other nuclear liability international instruments, i.e. the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, the 1997 Protocol to amend the Vienna Convention, the 1988 Joint Protocol relating to the application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention and the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC).

Nuclear law information

The OLC provides current, online information on national legislation, regulatory and institutional frameworks and international protocols and conventions on nuclear activity and liability issues.

The Nuclear Law Bulletin (NLB) is published twice a year and includes the following:

  • expert articles on contemporary nuclear law issues;
  • developments in nuclear legislation and regulation worldwide, as well as in nuclear-energy related international instruments;
  • reports on relevant case law;
  • updates on intergovernmental agency activity;
  • texts of significant new laws and other legal documents.

Education programmes

The OLC is responsible for two educational programmes:

In addition, the OLC participates in, upon invitation, other nuclear law education programmes, particularly in countries of strategic importance to the NEA.

Support to NEA programmes and projects

The OLC provides legal advice and other support to NEA management on a wide range of substantive and procedural matters relating to the Agency’s status and activities, including its co-operation with other organisations, institutions and non-members; and the negotiation/re-negotiation, drafting, signing and implementation of international agreements, such as international joint project agreements in areas such as nuclear safety, radioactive waste and radiological protection.

In addition, the Head of OLC performs the depositary functions on behalf of the OECD Secretary-General for the following international legal instruments: