Civil liability for damages from any nuclear accident in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will lie solely with the operator of the nuclear facility concerned, under a newly announced law on nuclear liability drafted in line with international standards.
|Hamad el Kaabi announces the new law watched by FANR director general William Travers (Image: FANR)
The law regulates the provisions and determines the scope of civil liability and compensation in the event of a nuclear accident in the country, which embarked on the construction of its first nuclear power plant earlier this year. As well as determining that nuclear facility operators are solely and exclusively liable for damages arising from a nuclear accident, whether or not the operator is at fault, it also sets a limit on the operator's liability of 450 million Special Drawing Rights (SDR, an international currency unit used by the International Monetary Fund), equivalent to roughly 2.5 billion UAE dirhams or $694 million. The operator is therefore required to maintain insurance or other financial security of up to SDR 450.
Because nuclear accidents can have consequences that cross national borders, national laws are supplemented by a number of international conventions to form an international nuclear liability regime. Operator liability is normally covered by insurance and is limited under terms of the national legislation and international conventions. This means that the state can accept responsibility as insurer of last resort, as in all other aspects of industrial society. Chief amongst the international conventions governing the international nuclear regulatory regime is the IAEA's Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, amended in 1997, which the UAE formally ratified earlier this year.
The UAE law was drafted in consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and reviewed by the IAEA's legal teams to ensure that it is consistent with the agency's guidance and relevant international obligations. The UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) is to be the competent authority responsible for implementing the law.
The legislation was announced by the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA, Hamad al Kaabi, who described it as a "step forward" for the development of a solid regulatory framework for the UAE's nuclear energy program. "This regime provides a clear and predictable process for the public and industry to deal with compensation for damages that may result from nuclear incidents," he said.
The UAE's first nuclear power plant is being built by the Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) at Barakah for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec), and is scheduled to enter service in 2017.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News