Nuclear liability

For aggrieved parties, Austrian Nuclear Liability Law is more favourable than the international nuclear liability Regime.

Austria regards international nuclear liability regimes as highly unsatisfactory, as these lay down, among other things, liability caps, the exclusive channelling of liability towards the operator of a nuclear installation as well as court competence according to the damaging party’s domicile. This is why Austria has not ratified any of the existing agreements. Yet the Austrian Nuclear Liability Act (AtomHG) defines the place where the damage is sustained as place of jurisdiction; there is no liability cap, and, in certain cases, also suppliers or maintenance companies can be held responsible. At an international level, Austria advocates the inclusion of these key provisions also in international nuclear liability regimes, yet has hardly found any allies in this endeavour.

After the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, the issue of liability for nuclear damage has again moved into the foreground. In multiple instances, a uniform European and/or international nuclear liability regime has been requested. The European Commission has already announced several times that it would make a proposal on the topic, yet such proposal has not yet been submitted. Basically, an EU-wide harmonisation of nuclear liability rules would be desirable. From the Austrian point of view, however, the applicability of the principles of the Austrian Nuclear Liability Act must in no way be disrupted.

At an international level, there are currently two nuclear liability systems – the Paris/Brussels system in the framework of the OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency, and the Vienna system in the framework of the IAEO – with a system of rules that is basically the same to a large extent. To form a bridge between these liability systems, there is a joint protocol regarding the application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention dated 21 September 1988.

Moreover, the Convention dated 29 September 1997 stipulating additional compensation for nuclear damages applies. The objective of this Convention is to set up a global liability regime based on basic liability and on an additional financing instrument. The Convention entered into force in April 2015.

Pursuant to Article 30 of AtomHG, the Federal government must report to the National Council by 31 December 2001 and, in the following, every three years, on the development of international liability instruments applicable for nuclear damages, and, in particular, on the extent of the compensation amounts that are available at an international level. The most recent report is available as a download.