As any other industrial company, a nuclear installation can secure itself against the expenses caused by a potential accident, through underwriting one or more policies.
The categories of risks that so can be covered are the same as in the classical industry, on condition of taking into account the fact that the costs bound to nuclear decontamination can take important proportions. Consequently, in what follows we don't stick at the cover of the risks Workmen's Compensation, Material Damage, Machinery Breakdown, Consequential Loss and others, cover generally settled by classical policies adapted for the circumstances.
The regulations of the third party liability of the nuclear operator are therefore particular and are settled as well by international conventions, as by specific laws in each country.
In Belgium the third party liability of an operator is defined by :
- The Paris Convention of 29th July 1960.
- The law of 22nd July 1985 on third party liability in the field of nuclear energy.
I. The Paris Convention (P.C.)
The Paris Convention, adopted on 29th July 1960 under the care of the OECD, was the first international Convention that established the fundamental principles concerning the special regulations of third party liability and compensation in case of a nuclear accident.
These principles are the following :
- The objective liability (without being necessary to prove any fault) and the exclusive liability (channeling) of the operator of the nuclear installation in which the accident has occurred; this same principle is applicable to the carriage of nuclear substances.
- The limitation of the liability of the operator as for its amount and its period in time.
- The nuclear operator must have insurance or any other financial guaranty of an amount equivalent to the one of his liability.
Only one jurisdiction is competent to pronounce on the requests for compensation following a nuclear accident, in principle the one of the State in which the accident occurred. The enforcement of the judgments is compelled to each of the Contracting Parties.
- The principles of non-discrimination with respect to the victims of a nuclear accident, irrespective their nationality, domicile or the place of residence.
The States having ratified the Paris Convention are: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, The United Kingdom.
II. Law of 22 July 1985
The law of 22nd July 1985 specifies the modes of application of the P.C. with respect to the third party liability of the Belgian nuclear operators. The level of the liability of the operator has been modified by the law of 11th July 2000 and by the law of 13th November 2011 in order to bring it at € 1,2 billion.
Nevertheless, the King can, through a Royal Decree decided in the Cabinet, increase or reduce the liability amount of the operator. This explains how it comes that in Belgium some nuclear operators see their liability limited to € 74,4 million. In the case of transport of nuclear substances, the limit is € 297 million.
Remark : In Belgium, the nuclear operator, responsible for a nuclear installation, is recognized by Royal Decree.