From an international prospective, the accident at Chornobyl was anticipated and prepared for, at least in the sense that international guidelines and recommendations for dealing with a major nuclear accident had been put into place after the accident on the Three Mile Island.

The TMI accident had changed industries' view that an accident was not the central problem of nuclear energy. Since more could be done to improve the largely ignored area of emergency response, then more should be done - even though the probability of a major nuclear accident continued to be considered minute.

At the time of Chornobyl, emergency response was securely in the hands of national authorities. The international community had prepared guidelines on planning and intervention, as well as some non-binding recommendations on safety (targeted mainly to developing countries). In addition, international authorities has anticipated trans-boundary effects but, for lack of political momentum, made no preparation for such emergencies.

The occurrence of Chornobyl changed this lack of preparation standpoint, hopefully as an only example, and the international response was in some ways dramatic. The EC banned the import of certain foodstuffs considered contaminated, and important international agreements were concluded by the IAEA in areas of emergency notification and assistance. But at the same time the conditions for more harmonized political actions in the field of nuclear safety were finally established.

Due to complex institutional and political considerations, some countries deliberately chose to ignore even the flexible international guidelines on interventions in place at the time of Chornobyl. This complexity is a natural part of political decision-making, perhaps the more so after a national emergency, and will inevitably limit attempts at harmonization. A seemingly chaotic response to a wide scale nuclear accidents may mask the underlying value of national discretion in meeting the diverse needs of different political cultures.

With regard to preventing future nuclear accidents, as opposed to responding to them, Chornobyl had little effect on the role of the IAEA which was already committed to prevention. However, the IAEA still has no binding regulatory and inspection powers, and a limited budget for nuclear safety. Nuclear accident preparedness, as well as preparedness for other low probability accidents, raises the issue of industry's obligation to contribute to the expense involved.

The unique feature of the nuclear trans-boundary issue is the existence of a functional, international body - the IAEA - that is concerned with the civilian uses of nuclear technologies. The IAEA contribution to global nuclear safety is constrained, however, by the lack of political will on the part of Member States to allow more meaningful and binding international interventions for nuclear safety, the IAEA limited staff and budget to control nuclear installations, and the restricted ability of the agency to establish its credibility as an authoritative control body in light of its mandate to promote nuclear power. The EC has considerably more binding powers to regulate the nuclear industry in Europe, but its Euratom initiatives, in date, have been disappointing.

In the absence of an authoritative global or regional institution with binding and effective regulatory powers, less "visible" regimes, made up of networks of scientists, industry representatives, regulators, and perhaps citizens are developing to further nuclear safety and, in part, are being coordinated by the IAEA. Bilateral agreements between countries can have significant symbolic value, and international organizations can contribute to a useful networking service. Crucial aspects of such regimes, however, are shared principles, norms, and rules on the part of the participants, which make it unlikely that they can accommodate persons and groups with fundamentally opposing views on the future of nuclear power.

The real lesson of the Chornobyl accident may lie in triggering international political recognition of a shared global responsibility for the safety of nuclear technologies. The question of whether this recognition leads to an international nuclear safety regime that genuinely contributes to worldwide nuclear safety remained unanswered, although it is not likely that such a regime, if it develops, will be led by an authoritative international institution. Our international institutions and treaties, alone, cannot close the gap between the direction of our diplomatic efforts and the direction of the environment. This holds equally true for global nuclear safety.

A. Developing the international regime for nuclear safety.

i) Fundamental principles of nuclear safety.

  1. It is necessary to move, in a deliberate but very cautious, manner toward an international safety regime incorporating general principles, verification, exchange of experience and peer review. The regime should be based on the existing IAEA documents and established by the IAEA activities as well as the documents and activities of the other international regulatory bodies, such as the CEC, the OECD/EN and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). The International Convention on Nuclear Safety should become an effective instrument for formalizing that regime.

  2. The nuclear safety regulations should be enforced primarily at the national level, by the conscientious application of existing safety principles, standards and good practices at each nuclear facility, and within each national regulatory body, making best use of national legal frameworks and working practices.

  3. The IAEA should considerably enhance coordinating effort designed to facilitate the positive evolution of the national regulations. Groups of experts from the IAEA, its Member States, and from other relevant international institutions should examine the merits and demerits of various options for a formal framework of an international safety regime capable to maintain a high level of safety.

ii) The safety of operating nuclear power plants.

Operating organizations and national authorities should identify operating nuclear power plants that do not meet the high safety performance levels of the vast majority of operating plants and undertake improvements with the assistance of the international community.

  1. Nuclear power plants that do not meet the highest safety requirements and therefor pose safety risk must be identified and their safety performance must be raised to the necessary level. This task is primarily a national responsibility, but it should be facilitated through assistance measures by the international community. Exchanges of information on good operating practices should be a first step in promotion and implementation of the relevant corrective measures. The further development of the appropriate principles and practices is certainly very important in this respect. The international mechanism for assisting individual States need to be improved and efforts should be made to ensure this mechanism is utilized regularly by all States standing to benefit from it.

  2. The IAEA, through its governing bodies should develop a formal procedure for reviewing the results of national and international activities and for initiating remedial actions designed to achieve uniformly high safety performance at all operating plants. Such mechanisms as ASSET and OSART missions must be strengthened as part of this effort. The encouragement and promotion of the sufficient national regulatory oversight is also essential.
  3. As regards the nuclear power plants built to earlier safety standards, the IAEA must initiate the development of a basis for judging the safety levels of nuclear power plants and determining the minimum acceptable levels of safety. It is necessary:
    The identification of those plants that need to be reviewed and where improvements are necessary to ensure acceptable safety levels should be a responsibility of national operators and regulatory bodies. In this respect the IAEA should develop detailed guidances, encourage the necessary related activities on the national and international levels, provide for the exchange of experience, and coordinate the efforts of assistance.
    The IAEA should also initiate steps to clarify the role of international organizations in ensuring the efficient use of national and international resources. In this respect the WANO must provide operating organizations with necessary direct assistance with the development of adequate operational practices as well as the IAEA should support the national and international regulatory bodies in ensuring the establishment and maintenance of strong regulatory regimes.

  4. The details of how the nuclear safety reviews are carried out should be determined by individual countries to suit national needs. Several ways of carrying out periodic reviews are possible, but whichever is adopted the objective should be an overall assessment integrating all factors within one coherent picture. Each State should develop a review plan that meets its own requirements but is based on the common international approach. The review priority must be given to nuclear power plants that have been in service for ten or more years and that were built to an outdated safety design concept. The operational procedure of this review may be described as follows: a comparison with current safety objectives, shortfalls identification, determination of the overall safety significance of all shortfalls, determination if it is acceptable to continue the operation, taking actions to correct deficiencies of shut down the reactor.
    To prevent significant economic and social hardships, it is important that premature or unwarranted plant shutdowns not be ordered, and assistance should be given in this respect by those countries and international organizations that can provide it.

  5. International organizations should enhance mechanisms to improve the quality and timely exchange of operating experience systematic analysis findings and conclusions, in particular relating to human and operational performance. This could be achieved in part through regular use of the Incident Reporting System of the IAEA.

  6. The IAEA should improve its public information system disseminating information on operational safety performance experience. The more regular use of the International Nuclear Event Scale of the IAEA, and further development of the International Nuclear Information System of the IAEA could significantly contribute to ensuring the prompt, worldwide distribution of accurate, authoritative information on all events concerning nuclear power plants.

  7. The IAEA should develop safety criteria for the design of future nuclear reactors. The elaboration of these criteria should be done step by step beginning with the development of safety principles and evolving, in the long term, into a comprehensive set of criteria. INSAG regulations could provide an important input to this process.

iii) Final disposal of radioactive waste.

The IAEA should develop international safety objectives for use by participating Member States with regard to the implementation of radioactive waste management and disposal. The programs should also consider the provision of advice on safeguards commensurate with the safety of the final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. With respect to the safe disposal of the radioactive materials the following steps seem to be essential:

The IAEA should intensify the work on defining the obligations of States with regard to radioactive waste management and disposal and the associated safety objectives.

In 1993, the IAEA General Conference requested the Director General to initiate preparations for a convention on the safety radioactive waste management as soon as the ongoing process of developing waste management safety fundamentals has resulted in broad international agreement. In March 1995 the IAEA Board approved the safety fundamentals document entitled "The Principles of Radioactive Waste Management." The document will facilitate the work of an open- ended group of technical and legal experts charged with carrying out the necessary substantive preparations for a convention on the safety of the radioactive wastes management.

To learn properly all the lessons of the Chornobyl nuclear accident it is necessary for the international community to continue and accomplish thorough analysis of its consequences. The health and environmental consequences attributed to the accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant have already become a subject to extensive scientific examination [5, 21, 40, 42]. Although few accidents have been so thoroughly investigated, opinions on the real consequences still differ widely. Ten years after the accident, the EC, IAEA, and the WHO jointly sponsored, from 8 to 12 April 1996, an International Conference to seek a common and conclusive understanding of the nature and magnitude of the accident's consequences. The Conference, "One Decade after Chornobyl: Summing Up the Radiological Consequences of the Accident," was organized in cooperation with the United Nations through its Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UNDHA), as well as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNEP, UNSCAER, FAO, and the OECD through the NEA, and took place in the Austria Center Vienna, Vienna, from 8 to 12 April 1996 [39]. The Conference aimed at consolidating an international consensus on the health and other consequences of the accident taking particular account of the Conferences of two of the sponsoring organizations being held prior to it: the WHO International Conference on the "Health Consequences of the Chornobyl and Other Radiological Accidents," held in Geneva, 20-23 November 1995, and the "First International Conference of the European Union, Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine on the Consequences of the Chornobyl Accident" held in Minsk, 18-23 March 1996 [33]. In addition to including summaries from and being complementary to these prior conferences, the Conference "One Decade After Chornobyl" in Vienna has also thoroughly reviewed many scientific, medical, environmental, social, and political issues involved in assessing the impact of the accident, in the context of major changes over the past decade in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The meeting was attended by more than 800 scientists and officials working in the field of nuclear energy, radiation safety, and health care [43]. Participants also included high-level governmental representatives from the accident s three most heavily affected countries -- Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine -- and delegates from more than 70 other states and international organizations. While the conference did not expect to reach scientific consensus on all problems involved, its Joint Secretariat did issue conclusions and recommendations that place the consequences of the Chornobyl accident into perspective and can serve as the factual basis for decisions on future work and collaboration. Main conclusions of the Conference include those related to clinically observed health effects, thyroid effects, long-term health effects, other health-related effects, including psychological effects, stress and anxiety; consequences for the environment; the social, economic, institutional and political impact; nuclear safety remedial measures; and the consequences in perspective, prognosis for the future [44]. An important objective of the Conference was also to separate clearly the facts on the accident's consequences from "myths" and speculations, and to clarify and quantify the radioactive contamination effects.

There now is a need to develop an integrated international approach to all aspects of nuclear safety. During many years international community was considering the possibility of elaboration of the framework convention on the nuclear safety issues. Finally, the International Convention on Nuclear Safety adopted in 1994 under the auspices of the IAEA can provide Member States with the formalized general regulations. The international community is very interested in a workable and effective legal regime for nuclear safety. Thus, it is very important that the Convention on Nuclear Safety incorporates the most possible number of countries. The application mechanism of the Convention should be developed step by step so that meet the needs of the most diverse participants of the negotiation process.

B. Strengthening the existing international regime of liability for nuclear damage.

Within ongoing negotiations on the revision of the present international legal regime of liability for nuclear damage, established by the Vienna Convention of 1963, three scenarios are currently possible and each of them would be a step toward further positive evolution of the regime. These three scenarios should correspond to the following developments:

Let us consider these possibilities.

1. The first level revision would mean the most narrow acceptable scope of amendments and would imply no more than simply adjusting the provisions of the Convention to scientific and technological changes which took place during the last more than 30 years, eventually filling a few minor gaps in the regime. To be considered among other changes, amendments concerning determination of the amount of compensation in SDR IMF rather than in USD, the precise definition of the geographical scope of application of the Convention mentioning that the Convention applies to incidents occurring outside the land territory of the Contracting States, mainly in territorial seas, contiguous zones and continental shelves; an increase in the amount of 5 million USD as fixed by Article V given the increase in capacity of nuclear installation.

Although considered to be a minimum revision program for the Vienna Convention, it is likely to be acceptable for most of the negotiating parties as a progressive revisionist scenario or as a step forward, yet it seems likely that it cannot be regarded as either improving or as strengthening the existing international legal regime to any significant degree.

2. The idea of making the Vienna Convention regime of liability for damage similar to more effective regime established within the OECD countries by the Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (1960 Paris Convention) and its supplements would form the basis for more advanced amendment of the 1963 Vienna Convention.

There are no doubts that after the thirty years of parallel coexistence of the Vienna and Paris international legal regimes of liability for nuclear damage the Vienna regime goes far behind the Paris regime in meeting contemporary nuclear liability requirements. Both legal regimes were initially based on the same principles, as the 1963 Vienna regime have partially borrowed them from the 1963 Paris Convention. Since then, efforts have been made to adjust the Paris regime to the development of nuclear industry and technology: the Paris Convention was supplemented by the 1962 Brussels Supplementary Convention, Additional Protocol of 1964 and the Protocol of 1982. At the same time the Vienna regime up to now is still based on principles elaborated in 1963.

This method of revision would certainly require more negotiating efforts from the IAEA and more flexibility from the Member States of the Vienna Convention. Nevertheless, it also seems to be possible since Parties to the Paris and Brussels Conventions are very active at the ongoing revision negotiations and submitted a number of practically valuable and potentially acceptable proposals. Furthermore, the first step toward conjunction of the two legal regimes was already made in 1988 by the elaboration of the Joint Protocol designed to link the Paris and Vienna Conventions. This document must be entered into force as soon as practically possible. The development of the system of supplementary funding within the Vienna regime, providing compensation for the nuclear damage on the similar to Paris system conditions should become the next negotiation priority.

3. The effort to amend the Vienna Convention so that it would ensure compensation to the victims in a more effective way then is currently provided by the Paris-Brussels system can be considered the most advanced revision scenario. It seems possible, since the revision negotiations appear to offer a good opportunity to develop the liability regime focusing on international state liability. This method of revision may also envision a regime more responsive to the interests of potential victims and to environmental considerations.

The advanced revision would include proposals for the introduction of the state liability for nuclear incidents, ideas of spelling unlimited and absolute liability for nuclear damage, plans to establish the liability of the Installation State for damage to the environment.

However, although it would be desirable to develop existing legal regime in the direction of State liability for nuclear installations operating on its territory and ensuring full compensation for victims, it is very likely that this level of revision of the Vienna Convention will not take place during the Diplomatic Conference currently scheduled for the 1996. This scope of amendments can be opposed by a considerable part of States with a large nuclear industry. Some other States that would perhaps agree in principle with the development of the international liability regime in this direction, in turn, cannot afford to support an advanced revision platform because of their economic situation. Besides, the ongoing negotiations within the Standing Committee up to now have made very little progress in elaborating proposals that correspond to this level of revision.

The fact that since the beginning of revision negotiations in 1989 Eastern Europe and the USSR have undergone highly important political, economic, and social changes represents a new challenge for the nuclear liability negotiation process. The freedom of actions of many states in transition is now limited by rather difficult economic and political situations. The process of reorganizing their economies, privatizing of the state property, including nuclear power plants, and the possibility of armed conflicts in some of the states introduces new factors to be considered in reaching agreement on questions of liability for nuclear damage.

At present, the international community is very interested in a workable and, if necessary, applicable system of international liability for nuclear damage. Thus, a great measure of care should be exercised in deciding the scope of amendments to the Vienna Convention. Given more then thirty years of the inefficient existence of the Vienna legal regime it is very important that new legal provisions are widely acceptable, meet the interests of the most diverse States participating in the negotiations, and at the same time are able to turn the Vienna regime in to an effective instrument of mitigation of the consequences of nuclear accidents if they arise.

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