Nuclear Liability

Establishing a Nuclear Liability Regime in UAE: 
Policy Commitments

H.E. Ambassador Hamad Alkaabi (left) handing over the UAE instruments of accession to the Vienna Convention on Nuclear Liability, Vienna, May 2012

2008: The UAE nuclear policy of 2008 states, “The UAE recognizes that dealing with eventual nuclear liability claims under existing national compensation laws is greatly limited by the unique character of the risks posed by leakages of radioactive material. Such leakages can produce effects reaching across borders, and it may take decades for the effects of exposure to radiation to manifest. Consequently, as a critical element underpinning the establishment of a peaceful nuclear energy programme, the UAE would introduce a regime of nuclear liability that complies with the major international instruments governing the area of nuclear liability. The establishment of any UAE nuclear energy programme would therefore be accompanied by the introduction of a separate nuclear liability regime for third-party compensation modeled on the IAEA instruments on nuclear liability.” 

2012: The UAE has fulfilled its commitments to joining international instruments in the area of nuclear liability, specifically, the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage as amended by the 1997 Protocol and ratified further to the Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage of 1997.  
IAEA Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability
Joint Protocol on the Application of the Vienna and Paris Conventions 
The Federal Law by Decree No 4 of 2012, Concerning Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
2012: The Federal Law by Decree No 4 of 2012, Concerning Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage was established to determine civil liability and compensation for nuclear damage in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It represents a transposition into UAE law of obligations contained in nuclear liability conventions and incorporates the fundamental principles contained in those conventions, namely:
  • the channeling of the entire legal responsibility for nuclear damage exclusively towards the operator;
  • the possibility of establishing the operator’s liability without having to prove negligence;
  • the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of countries where the nuclear accident occurs;
  • the limitation of the amount of liability and the possibility of setting a time limit for such a liability; 
  • the compensation of damage without discrimination on the basis of nationality, domicile, or residence.

Download the text of  Federal Law by Decree No. 4 of 2012 concerning Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage 

Objective of this Federal Law by Decree
  • regulate the provisions and determine the scope of the civil liability and compensation for nuclear damage;
  • determine the financial security that the operator must maintain;
  • apply the 1997 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage wherever no provision is made in this Law by Decree. 
Development of the Law by Decree

The provisions of the Law by Decree are consistent with UAE international obligations and best international practices including the assessment of the international insurance market for the nuclear sector. The text and provisions of the Law by Decree have been under consultation and reviewed by the IAEA Legal experts to ensure the Law by Decree is consistent with IAEA guidance and relevant international obligations.

The Federal Law by Decree No 4 of 2012 sets standards to provide financial protection against damage resulting from nuclear incidents from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Under the Federal Law by Decree, the operator of a nuclear facility is solely and exclusively liable for nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident regardless if the operator is at fault. The person suffering the damage does not need to prove negligence or any type of fault on the part of the operator to claim against the damage suffered. This is consistent with the recognized international principles on nuclear liability.
For purposes of this Law by Decree, the term “nuclear damage” is consistent with the definition given by the 1997 Protocol to amend the Vienna Convention and includes death or personal injury; loss of or damage to property; economic loss; cost of restoring the impaired environment or loss of income from an economic interest as a result of such impairment; preventive measures arising from further loss or damages of the said measures; and any other economic loss as a result of nuclear accident.

The operator’s liability under this Federal Law by Decree is set not to exceed 450 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) i.e. the units of account as defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and used by the IMF for its own operations and transactions. This amount is equivalent to approximately AED 2.5 billion.

The operator is obliged to maintain insurance or provide other financial security up to 450 million SDRs. In the event that the operator is not able to provide the insurance cover as determined by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the UAE Government will cover the risks covered by such insurance.
Actions for compensation under this Law by Decree may only be brought against the operator or the person providing financial security within three years from the date the person suffering damage had knowledge or ought to have had knowledge of the damage and of the operator liable for the damage.

The right to compensation will be extinguished if the claim is not brought within 30 years for loss of life and personal injury and within 10 years for other types of damages from the date of a nuclear incident. The Federal Courts in Abu Dhabi will have sole jurisdiction for actions that may be brought in accordance with this Law by Decree.

FANR is the competent authority, which will implement this Law by Decree including issuing rules and regulations relating to the application of the provisions of this Law by Decree. The provisions of this Law by Decree will not impede the rights or obligations of any person to obtain compensation under any health insurance scheme, employees’ compensation or other occupational disease compensation scheme.

 “The establishment of such a robust nuclear liability regime is another step forward of the UAE Government’s responsible approach to developing the solid regulatory framework for the peaceful nuclear energy programme. 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,”
H.E. Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) while introducing the new legislation.