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Facing Plans for Multiplying Nuclear-Powered Vessels: Lessons Gained from the Brussels Convention on the Liability of Operators of Nuclear Ships of 1962

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Document pages: 21 pages

Abstract: The Convention on the Liability of Operators of Nuclear Ships was adopted in Brussels on 25 May 1962 as a free-standing convention, not under the aegis of either the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The convention was intended to apply to nuclear damage caused by a nuclear incident occurring in any part of the world and involving the nuclear fuel of, or radioactive products or waste produced in, a nuclear ship flying the flag of a contracting party. In most respects, the convention closely resembles the Paris and Vienna nuclear liability conventions. Nevertheless, the convention has not entered into force until now, mainly for the following reasons: firstly, there have not been virtually commercial nuclear fleets in operation in the years since the adoption of the convention; second, the convention covers military vessels, and the states with major military nuclear fleets have not been interested in becoming contracting parties to this convention; finally, the liability has been limited to the anachronistic amount of 1500 million gold (Poincaré) francs. However, according to the most current statements made by several states (e.g., Brazil, China and Russia), the nuclear fleet is planned to be further enhanced by new-generation nuclear vessels in the coming years. With these developments in mind, we have to face the current questions of which nuclear liability regime will be most appropriate for these newly built fleets and what lessons are to be learned from the deadlock on the Brussels Convention on the Liability of Operators of Nuclear Ships.

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