Last month, the Peace Palace Library was delighted to hear that Sayed Zeidan, a long-term visitor of the Library completed his dissertation after spending countless hours working hard researching and writing on the subject of “State Responsibility and Liability for Environmental Damage Caused by Nuclear Accident” at Tilburg University in The Netherlands. The Peace Palace Library congratulates Sayed Zeidan and wishes him the best of luck in the future!

Here follows a summary of his dissertation:

Nowadays, the use of nuclear reactors to generate power has become inevitable for many countries, particularly the developed nations. They have been widely used in many ways on land, for example, for the operation of power plants, in outer space to launch satellites and at sea for propelling ships. Also, due to the decline of fossil fuels, the need to reduce greenhouse gasses, and the economic advantages, the use of nuclear reactors to generate power will be an issue for many countries in the future, particularly the developing countries. However, the increasing number of nuclear reactors raises the possibility of serious nuclear accidents such as the 1986Chernobyland the 2011Fukushimaaccidents and more liability problems are anticipated.

This study provides an analytical, practical and theoretical framework on State liability and responsibility for environmental damage caused by major nuclear accidents as a result of nuclear activities in accordance with the existing rules of international law. Despite the traditional rules of international liability focus on reparation of the incidence damage, this study concludes that the role of liability for environmental damage must be extended to prevent damage that might result from a nuclear activity as a hazardous activity before it happens. The regime of liability has two functions: a preventive function and a reparative function. The study also concludes that liability for environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident must be covered by a comprehensive regime of liability based on civil and international liability that is aimed at prevention, reduction and reparation of environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident. Liability for environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident should be governed by the nuclear liability conventions and the general rules of international law in one unified regime of liability. The operator of a nuclear installation is primarily liable for environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident, while the State is liable for the residual liability and for violation of its nuclear and environmental obligations when organizing or allowing a nuclear activity under international law.

The study is organized in four parts, and divided into ten chapters. Chapter 1 summarizes the various aspects of international liability for environmental damage caused by peaceful nuclear activities and presents the research subjects. Part I also includes chapters 2 and 3 which define transboundary environmental damage caused by major nuclear accidents and its relationship with international liability. Chapter 2 provides the factual background and a description of the major nuclear accidents that have occurred since nuclear reactors have been used. It outlines the nature and characteristics of transboundary environmental nuclear damage and shows the amount of damage that can be caused by a nuclear accident to which the rules of international liability apply. Chapter 3 defines the legal concept and the scope of the environmental nuclear damage for which reparation can be made. This definition is necessary to establish and determine the scope of liability for nuclear damage. Liability cannot be established unless the environmental nuclear damage was caused by nuclear activity.

Part II comprises chapters 4 and 5, which investigate the primary obligations imposed upon the State to prevent and minimize environmental nuclear damage as a preventive function of international responsibility. Chapter 4 examines the legal basis of the obligation to prevent and reduce damage as an essential principle to incur State responsibility for environmental damage caused by nuclear activities under the general rules of international law. It examines three issues. It clarifies whether the principle of prevention is a general norm or a general principle or a customary international law principle, and examines the legal basis of the principle of prevention and the principle of cooperation between States to prevent and reduce environmental nuclear damage. Chapter 5 discusses the procedural rules and obligations under international law for the construction of a nuclear installation and its operation to prevent and reduce environmental damage. These obligations are based on the principle of prevention and reduction of environmental damage. If these obligations are breached, the State is responsible for wrongful acts. The examination covers two aspects, the obligations of the State before the occurrence of a nuclear accident and the obligations of the State after the occurrence of a nuclear accident. The first includes the obligations of theInstallationState to ensure the safe operation of a nuclear installation, for example, by enforcing a regulatory regime, designating the liable operator, carrying out an environmental impact assessment, and taking care of the issues of nuclear safety of a nuclear installation. It also includes the obligations of theInstallationState, other States and international organizations to provide the necessary information to prevent and reduce damage caused by a nuclear activity. These may include, for example, providing prior notification in the case of the construction of a nuclear installation, consultation, negotiation, exchange of information and providing information to the public. The second aspect examines the obligations of States after a nuclear accident to provide early notification and assistance under the general rules of international law and the 1986 conventions on early notification and assistance in case of a nuclear accident.

Part III comprises chapters 6, 7, 8 and 9, which deal with State responsibility and liability for environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident under the general rules of international law as a function of international liability to make reparation. Up to now, liability for nuclear damage has been governed by international conventions which cover the liability of the operator, and also by the traditional rules of liability under international law which govern the liability of a State for nuclear damage. The aim of chapter 6 is to determine the applicable regime of liability and the person who is liable for the damage, to make a distinction and determine the relationship between civil liability and international liability for environmental nuclear damage, and to investigate whether there is a possibility of integrating the two regimes of liability in a single unified regime. In practice, as well as in theory, there is some confusion about the relationship between the two regimes in relation to liability for environmental nuclear damage. The chapter examines both aspects. It examines whether or not there is an obligation on the State to intervene and to repair the environmental damage caused by nuclear activities and examines the nature of nuclear liability. This determines whether or not such liability should be based on civil or international law, or on both. Chapter 7 provides an analysis of State responsibility for its wrongful acts according to the general rules of international law in the case that it has breached the nuclear liability conventions or principles of international law or has omitted to perform its obligations under them. This will help to establish the liability of the State in the case of a violation of the obligations with regard to preventing, minimizing and redressing the incidence of environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident. Since the liability for damage caused by lawful nuclear activities not prohibited by international law is based on absolute liability, chapter 8 examines the basis and origin of the objective liability of a State for environmental nuclear damage caused by such activities. This liability is based on actual damage caused by a hazardous activity, irrespective of any fault or negligence on the part of the party that caused the damage. Chapter 9 discusses the legal consequences of the failure of a State to observe its environmental and nuclear obligations under international law and in the case of the occurrence of a nuclear accident causing transboundary environmental damage where these obligations have not been violated. The consequences of the liability could be the cessation of the nuclear activity concerned, for example, in the event of the violation of international safety standards, or the reinstatement of the damaged environment to its status quo ante, or providing an official apology to the injured State if the damage is limited, or providing compensation for environmental damage caused by the nuclear accident. As liability for damage caused by lawful activities is based on the idea of absolute liability, the only consequence of liability is compensation for damage caused by the accident.

Finally, Part IV provides summary conclusions drawn from the various chapters of the study and recommendations which are included in chapter 10 of the study. It concludes that the rules of liability for environmental nuclear damage as presented in the study constitute a comprehensive international liability regime which serves to prevent, reduce and redress nuclear environmental damage caused by a nuclear accident.

 This book is a PhD dissertation written by Sayed Zeidan on “State Responsibility and Liability for Environmental Damage Caused by Nuclear Accident”, at the Tilburg Law School, Tilburg University, Netherlands, under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Verschuuren, Professor of European and International Law at the same Faculty. Sayed Zeidan holds a PhD degree in international law fromTilburgUniversityand currently is affiliated as a researcher at the same Faculty.

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