Legislation and rules applicable to nuclear transport and transit

Carriage of nuclear substances forms an important part of the nuclear fuel cycle with roughly one million relevant transport operations taking place every year (source: WNTI). Each of those carriages must be insured for nuclear third party liability to cover any nuclear damage that may be caused by an incident occurring during the transport of nuclear substances.

The international nuclear liability conventions provide for the basic principles of nuclear third party liability that apply to all civil nuclear activities governed by such special regimes, including the transport and transit of nuclear substances.

The main principles common to these conventions, which have also been reflected in most national nuclear liability laws worldwide, are as follows:

  • The exclusive liability of the operator of the nuclear installation where the nuclear incident occurred;
  • The strict (absolute) liability of such operator;
  • The establishment of a maximum liability amount to be borne by the operator, the nuclear liability conventions providing for a minimum threshold. Only a few countries, such as Japan, Germany and Switzerland, have provided for unlimited liability under their nuclear liability legislation;
  • The obligation for the operator to have and maintain financial security to cover its nuclear liability and ensure availability of funds;
  • The obligation of the victims to file claims within a certain period (prescription period).

The international nuclear liability conventions also incorporate principles specifically designed to address the complexities posed by the potential transboundary damage and cross-border compensation claims:

  • Determination of the competent jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments;
  • Determination of the applicable law and equal treatment (no discrimination based upon nationality, domicile or residence).

These conventions also provide for provisions which govern transport and transit of nuclear substances. They address for example:

  • The transfer of nuclear liability from the sending to the receiving operator;
  • The substitution of the operator by a carrier;
  • The allocation of nuclear liability in case of storage of nuclear substances incidental to their carriage, or in case of nuclear substances owned by different operators and carried in one and the same means of transport;
  • The amount for nuclear liability that a State can require while the carriage of nuclear substance is transiting through its territory;
  • The cases when a financial security certificate may be required or not.

All international nuclear liability conventions leave some degree of discretion to domestic law and national courts concerning their implementation or application in the national legal system with regard to transport or transit of nuclear substances.

However, it is important to note that a number of countries are not parties to any of the nuclear liability conventions and apply their own national rules and regulations to nuclear transport.

As a consequence, in the course of transnational carriage, several nuclear liability regimes, whether international or national, may apply; the same carriage of nuclear substances may potentially be governed by different nuclear liability regimes.

Exchange of legal information and sharing related national experience regarding nuclear liability as applicable to nuclear transport is essential to help nuclear operators, carriers and insurers organise transport of nuclear substances.

To support this endeavor, the Working Party on Nuclear Liability and Transport (WPNLT) agreed to elaborate and publish country sheets describing the national nuclear third party liability regimes applicable in NEA member and partner countries to transport and transit of nuclear substances. These country sheets aim at providing a practical overview of the applicable legal framework in each concerned country to all stakeholders involved in the organisation of carriage of nuclear substances and to the public in general.


Country sheets
OECD and NEA countries
* Suspended member