Nuclear Liability: A Key Component of the Public Policy Decision to Deploy Nuclear Energy in Southeast Asia

Domestic Approaches

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Mohit Abraham
Global Nuclear Future

Beyond the international and regional conventions, several countries with commercial nuclear programs have their own legislative regimes for nuclear liability. These countries can be grouped into three categories: (1) those that are party to one or both of the international conventions and have their own legislation (notably the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, and Russia); (2) those that are not party to any international convention that is in force but have their own legislation or related measures (the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, India, and China); and (3) those that are not party to a convention and are without their own legislation. The limits of liability vary considerably among jurisdictions with their own legislation. (For a summary of liability limits provided for by legislation in various countries, see Appendix B.)

Apart from India, no country grants operators a right to recourse against a supplier unless such a right is contractually agreed to or the nuclear incident is the result of a supplier’s act or omission intended to cause such damage.

India was not the first country to introduce the principle of supplier liability. In 1998, Austria passed the Act on Civil Liability for Damages caused by Radioactivity. The focus of this act is to protect Austrian citizens; consequently, it provides for unlimited strict liability. Under this law, a plaintiff can file a claim against a supplier, but the claim can be dismissed if the supplier can prove that the operator is capable of paying compensation. If the operator proves unable to pay compensation, the courts may reopen the suit against the supplier.61

The motivation for the Austrian legislature’s decision was its view that the legal channeling of supplier’s liability was not an appropriate standard to use.62 However, because Austria has only three small research reactors, not much attention has been paid to this law.


61 Hariharan, “India’s Nuclear Civil Liability Bill,” 239.

62 Ibid.