D84

3 October 1997

Australia signs new Convention on Compensation for Nuclear Damage

Australia signed the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage in Vienna on 1 October.

Since the Chernobyl accident in 1986, it has been recognised that the international legal system would have difficulty providing effective compensation for claims arising from damage by radioactive materials, particularly damage suffered across international borders. The Convention is the result of negotiations to address these concerns on a global level.

Australia was a primary advocate for the non nuclear power generating countries in the negotiations and is among the first countries in the world to sign the Convention. Australia's profile, as a leader in promoting responsible nuclear management, has been enhanced by our substantial contributions to the negotiations.

The Convention allows for:

  • compensation for damage within a country's exclusive economic zone, which includes loss of tourism or fisheries related income; and
  • up to approximately AUD 1 billion in compensation which will be determined in the courts of the country where the incident occurred.

The Convention marks the culmination of years of work by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which established a Standing Committee on Nuclear Liability in 1990. The Committee formally met 17 times before concluding its technically complex and politically delicate negotiations in April 1997. The Convention was then adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in September and signed at the Agency's General Conference in October.