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European Opt-in Decision (Nuclear Liability)

Volume 557: debated on Friday 1 February 2013

The UK has opted in to the proposal for a Council decision on ratification of the 1997 protocol amending the Vienna convention on civil liability for nuclear damage of 21 May 1963 (“the Vienna convention”). The proposal meets the criteria set out in the coalition agreement with regard to EU justice and home affairs measures. In particular, the Government consider that it is in the UK’s interest to opt in to the proposal because it will be of general benefit to EU citizens but it will not create any obligations in the UK.

The proposed decision authorises member states which are contracting parties to the Vienna convention to ratify the protocol of 12 September 1997 amending the Vienna convention in the interest of the European Union, or to accede to it. The Vienna convention was established to ensure fair and adequate compensation is available in the event of a nuclear accident. The protocol amendments will be beneficial to potential victims of nuclear accidents for which nuclear operators in states that are contracting parties to the Vienna convention are responsible. In particular, they mean that an increased amount of compensation will be available in respect of a broader range of damage across a wider geographical area.

The proposal will only apply to member states that are party to the Vienna convention, that is Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia and Poland (Latvia and Romania have already ratified the 1997 protocol). The proposal will not apply to the UK which is party to another international convention on liability for nuclear damage—the Paris convention on third party liability in the field of nuclear energy of 29 July 1960 as amended—which is based on similar principles to the Vienna convention.