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.
Unofficial consolidated text of the Paris Convention [English and French]
The Paris Convention establishes a special legal regime founded on a number of important principles:
The Paris Convention provides for compensation for: loss of life or personal injury, and loss of or damage to property caused by a nuclear accident in a nuclear installation or during the transport of nuclear substances to and from installations. In addition, the 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. It does not cover damage to the nuclear installation itself.
Nuclear installations are defined as:
Nevertheless, the contracting parties to the Paris Convention may exclude a particular disposal facility in the post-closure phase from the application of the Paris Convention, where it no longer poses a significant risk and is therefore no longer under active surveillance. 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 Paris 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 parties to the Paris Convention, special provisions apply to ensure that an operator to which the Convention regime applies will be liable.
The Paris Convention applies not only to nuclear damage suffered in the territory of a contracting party to the Convention (including its maritime zones or on board a ship or aircraft registered by such party), but also to nuclear damage suffered in a non-Paris Convention state (including its territories and maritime zones or on board a ship or aircraft registered by such state) if:
The Paris Convention recognises 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 contracting party to the Paris Convention, jurisdiction over claims for nuclear damage arising from that incident shall lie only with the courts of that coastal state.
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.
Read more about the Paris Convention on Nuclear Third Party Liability on the NEA Multilateral agreements in nuclear energy website.
The Brussels Supplementary Convention establishes a scheme to provide compensation supplementary to that required by the Paris Convention. The BSC is open only to contracting parties to the Paris Convention.
The Convention on the Establishment of a Security Control in the Field of Nuclear Energy ("Security Control Convention") and the Protocol on the Tribunal established by the Security Control Convention ("Protocol on the Tribunal") were adopted on 20 December 1957. The Convention came into force on 22 July 1959 and the first judges were appointed on 1 January 1960. The implementation of the security control system (designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons) has been suspended since the 1970s in order to avoid duplication with similar systems established by Euratom and the International Atomic Energy Agency. For the time being, the jurisdiction of the Tribunal has been limited to resolving differences concerning the interpretation or application of the above-mentioned Paris and Brussels Conventions.