The Vienna convention on civil liability for nuclear damage: past, evolution and perspectives

Author:Jakub Handrlica - Marianna Novotná
Position:Jakub Handrlica - associate professor of administrative law, Law Faculty, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, jakub.handrlica@prf.cuni.cz. Marianna Novotná - associate professor of civil law, Law Faculty, University in Trnava, Slovak Republic, marianna.novotna@gmail.com.
Pages:48-63
SUMMARY

The article remains the 55th anniversary of the adoption of the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage in 1963. As an instrument of international law adopted to tackle the issues of liability and compensation of damages arising from incidents in nuclear installations, the Vienna Convention currently provides for liability framework in 40 Contracting Parties (Installation States)... (see full summary)

 
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The Vienna convention on civil liability for nuclear damage:
past, evolution and perspectives
Associate professor Jakub HANDRLICA1
Associate professor Marianna NOVOTNÁ2
Abstract
The article r emains the 55th anniversar y of the a doption of the Vienna Convention
on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage in 1963. As an instrument of internationa l law adopted
to tackle the issues of liability and compensation of damages arising from incidents in nuclear
installation s, the Vienna Convention currently pr ovides for lia bility fra mework in
40 Contra cting Parties (Insta llation States) worldwide, establishing inter alia a lia bility
framework covering most States of the former Easter n bloc. The pur pose of the work is to
ana lyse developments of the Vienna Convention, especially its gra dual a cceptance among
the international community of States in the la st decad es. Fur ther, the article points out
further developments in the field of nuclear liability, in par ticular the a doption of the Joint
Protoco l, which established a virtual bridge with a nother liability regime, provided in the
States of Western Europe by the P aris Convention. Also, the article dea ls with the Protocol
of 1997, adopted in order to strengthen the liability framework esta blished by the Vienna
Convention. Fa cing the developments of the last 55 years, the Vienna Convention is to be
considered as a successful internationa l trea ty. It was able to attr act the executives of several
Central and Easter n European Sta tes, many of which represent major nuclear countries of
the region. Fur ther, the specific principles, esta blished by the Vienna Convention, have been
accepted as pilla rs of the legal framework of the peaceful uses of nuclear ener gy. At last, but
not at lea st, the Vienna Convention repr esents an instrument, being able to connect this
region in the future with other regions, intending for future development of nuclear industry.
Keywords: internationa l nuclear law, nuclear lia bility, nuclear insur ance, nuclear damages,
exclusive liability, jurisdiction, nuclear insta llations.
JEL Classification: K23, K32
1. Introduction
55 years ago, on 21 May 1963, the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for
Nuclear Damage (thereinafter “the Vienna Convention” or “the Convention”)3 was
adopted by the States4 participating at the International Conference on Civil Liability
1 Jakub Handrlica associate professor of administrative law, Law Faculty, Charles University in
Prague, Czech Republic, jakub.handrlica@prf.cuni.cz.
2 M arianna Novotná associate professor of civil law, Law Faculty, University in Trnava, Slovak
Republic, marianna.novotna@gmail.com.
3 The Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (adopted 2 1 May 1963, entered into
force 12 November 1977), INFCIRC/500.
4 Argentina, Belarussian Soviet Socialistic Republic, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, the Socialist
Federal Republic o f Yugoslavia, the State of Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Philippines, Spain, USSR
and the United Kingdom.
Juridical Tribune Volume 8, Special Issue, October 2018 49
for Nuclear Damage5 under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(thereinafter “the IAEA”) in order to address the risks arising from peaceful uses of
nuclear energy.6 Its goal was to establish a nuclear liability framework applicable
worldwide.7 The Vienna Convention was opened for signature for the States
represented at the International Conference and it had to enter into force three months
after the date of deposit of the fifth instrument of ratification to the Director General
of the IAEA.8 Consequently, it entered into force on 12 November 1977, after being
ratified by Argentina, Cuba, Egypt, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and
Philippines.9 In the following decades, a number of other (both nuclear10 and non-
nuclear) States either ratified (Chile, Lebanon), or acceded (Bolivia, Brazil,
Cameroon, Jordan, Mauritius, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Saint
Vincent and Grenadines, Senegal, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay).11
While the Union of Soviet Socialistic Republics (together with the
Belarussian Soviet Socialistic Republic) participated at the International Conference
on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, it strictly opposed the principles provided by
the newly established liability regime (in particular the principle of channelling of
liability to the operator, rather to the State). Consequently, neither of the States of
the former Eastern bloc (with the salient exception of the above-mentioned
Yugoslavia12) acceded to this convention until the early 1990s. They did so only after
5 29 April 19 May 1963.
6 K. Wolff, The Vienna Internationa l Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage , [in] Nuclear
liability, progress in nuclea r energy, ed. James Weinstein, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1966, pp. 1-22.
7 In 1960, the Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (thereinafter “the
Paris Convention”) was adopted under the auspices of the European Nuclear Energy Agency (ENEA)
to establish a regional liability framework in the Western Europe. Consequently, it was later ratified
by Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands,
Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and th e United Kingdom. In entered into force in 1 968.
Further, in 1962, the Convention on the Liability of Operators of Nuclear Ships was adopted und er
the auspices of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in order to tackle the liability issues
arising from the operation of nuclear propelled maritime vessels. However, this Convention has never
been ratified by the required number of the States and consequently, did never entered into force.
8 Vienna Convention, Article XXIII.
9 At that time, only Argentina was operating a nuclear installation in its territory. However, both Egypt,
Cuba, Philippines and Yugoslavia had some nuclear ambitions, which were successful on ly in the
latter case.
10 I.e. States operating nuclear installations covered by the liability regime as established by the Vienna
Convention in their territories.
11 While participating at the International Conference on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, the State
of Israel has never ratified the Vienna Convention and remains to be out of the nuclear liability
framework established. Also, Spain and the United Kingdom did originally participate in the
International Conference. However, they did ratify the Paris Convention afterwards. Due to the fact,
a parallel participation in bo th the Vienna and Paris Conventions has been regarded as impossible,
they have never ratified the Vienna Convention. See M. Lagorce, Étude comparative des conventions
O.C.D.E. et A.I.E.A. sur la responsabilité civile dans le domaine de l´ énergie, “Aspects de droit de
l´ enérgie atomique”, 1/1965, pp. 93-102.
12 The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had signed and ratified the Vienna Convention on 21
May 1963 and 12 August 1977, respectively. Bosna and Hercegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia
and the Republic of Macedonia succeeded to be Contracting Parties to the Convention. Slovenia did
originally also succeed, but had afterwards terminated the Vienna Convention and acceded to the

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