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Liability in Nuclear Power Implementation

By Ruly Hidayatullah & Septia Buntara Supendi
29 December 2017

According to the World Nuclear Association, nuclear power contributes more than 9 GWe of additional capacity to the power grid in 2016, indicating the largest annual increase in a contribution by nuclear for over 25 years. By the end of 2016, there were 448 nuclear reactors around the world supplying about 2476 TWh worldwide. In ASEAN, some ASEAN Member States (AMS) view nuclear power as a future energy source to fulfil its electricity needs and to meet their CO2 reduction target. Accordingly, some AMS have started nuclear-related research activity (non-power application) and utilisation of radioactive matters in medical, industry, and agriculture application. The radiation risk to workers and public and to the environment that may arise from the application have to be assessed and, if necessary to be controlled. It is essential for a country to develop and provide effective and efficient nuclear regulations to ensure the safety and security of the nuclear power operation.

One of the aspects of nuclear regulation is the liability regime. The nuclear energy sector demonstrates a level of international cooperation on liability for transboundary pollution and damage that is not observed in other energy industries. Ever since the first commercial nuclear power reactors were built, there has been concern about the possible effects of a severe nuclear accident, coupled with the question of who would be liable for third-party consequences. Nuclear liability regimes are of vital importance for two main reasons: (1) the ability for the nuclear energy industry to function; and (2) the protection for public as potential victims of a nuclear accident.

The liability regime was also one of the topics discussed in the Workshop on Nuclear Legal and Regulatory Framework under ACE-Canada Nuclear and Radiological Programme Administrative Support (NRPAS), being conducted last November in Jakarta. Besides liability, the forum also discussed among other nuclear codes and standards, harmonisation of regional nuclear regulation, and updates on nuclear regulation and development in ASEAN. In the forum, a representative from Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) as the nuclear regulatory body in Canada, shared about liability regime which was enacted in Canada. The regulation called Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act (NLCA), which deals with liability and compensation for a nuclear accident in Canada. It establishes the compensation and civil liability regime to address damages resulting from radiation in the unlikely event of a radioactive release from a Canadian nuclear installation. It also secures Canada’s membership in an international joint convention called the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, that addresses liability and compensation for damage arising from nuclear accidents occurring within member countries and during transport of nuclear materials. The convention ensures that a compensation scheme is in place for claimants and provides continuous support to nuclear development by transferring civil liability to operators.  In ASEAN, Malaysia–through their new drafted comprehensive Atomic Energy Bill—had just put nuclear liability as one additional chapter in their nuclear act, Atomic Energy Regulatory – Nuclear Liability Financial Security Regulations, to strengthen their legal and regulatory framework. The limit of liability in the regulation refers to the Vienna Convention on Civil Nuclear Liability.

As an important aspect of nuclear legal and regulatory framework, AMS should look into liability aspect if they consider building nuclear power plant in the future. There should be a consensus on nuclear liability at the regional level since nuclear accidents in one country could also affect its neighbours and beyond. It is also recommended that AMS join international treaties or conventions related to nuclear liability. Even though nuclear power could bring benefits in terms of huge energy capacity and low carbon emission, policymakers should also take into account its risks to the public.  One of the steps to manage those risks is to prepare a proper liability regime to protect civilians and to provide adequate compensation caused by accidents.


World Nuclear Association, Liability for Nuclear Damage. Accessed December 2017

CNSC, The Financial Liability of Industry as Part of the Legal Framework: Canadian Case. Workshop presentation. November 2017

Raphael J. Heffron et al, The Global nuclear liability regime post Fukushima Daichi. Progress in Nuclear Energy. 2016

Credit Photo: Johannes Plenio.

The views, opinions, and information expressed in this article were compiled from sources believed to be reliable for information and sharing purposes only, and are solely those of the writer/s. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and/or the ASEAN Member States. Any use of this article’s content should be by ACE’s permission.