Vienna Convention of 1963 on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage

Vienna Convention of 1963 on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage

 

an international convention, adopted at the International Diplomatic Conference on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, held from Apr. 29, 1963, to May 19, 1963. The convention and the optional protocol on the compulsory settlement of disputes were opened for signature on May 21, 1963. By Oct. 1, 1969, the convention had been ratified by eight countries in all, including Yugoslavia, Colombia, the United Arab Republic, Cuba, and the Philippines. The USSR signed the final act of the conference and voted for the adoption of the convention.

Since nuclear objects are a source of extreme danger, the convention provides for absolute liability for nuclear damage; that is, liability for nuclear damage is incurred regardless of whether the operator was or was not at fault or responsible for the damage. There is only one exception to this general rule: the operator is relieved wholly or partially from his obligation to pay compensation with respect to damage if the damage is caused by a nuclear incident arising from a grave natural disaster of an exceptional character, armed conflict, military hostilities, civil war, insurrection, or gross negligence on the part of the person suffering the damage.

The convention is based on the principle of full liability for established property damage. However, if the amount of damage exceeds the maximum limit of compensation that is laid down in the convention (US$5 million for any one nuclear incident), the compensation will be limited to that maximum.

The convention provides that action must be brought within ten years from the date of the nuclear incident. If the nuclear damage was caused by a nuclear incident with the nuclear material being transported and which at the time of the incident was stolen, lost, jettisoned, or abandoned, the period is increased to 20 years. The period begins as a rule from the date of the nuclear incident.

In the event of nuclear damage, claims relating to compensation for damage can be considered only in that country which is a participant in the convention and in whose territory the nuclear incident occurred.

A. I. IOIRISH

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