Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (Paris Convention or PC)

A special international regime for nuclear third party liability is necessary since ordinary common law is not well suited to deal with the particular problems in this field. The drafters of the 1960 Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (the “Paris Convention” or PC) set out to provide adequate compensation to the public for damage resulting from a nuclear accident and to ensure that the growth of the nuclear industry would not be hindered by bearing an intolerable burden of liability.

Unofficial consolidated text of the Paris Convention [English and French]

The Paris Convention establishes a special legal regime founded on a number of important principles:

  • The nuclear installation operator is exclusively liable for damage resulting from accidents at its installation or during the transport of nuclear substances to and from that installation.
  • This liability is "strict", as opposed to general tort law which is based on fault or negligence. Under the Paris Convention, a nuclear installation operator is liable, regardless of whether fault can be established.
  • The minimum liability amount of a nuclear installation operator is EUR 700 million. In addition, states with an unlimited liability regime may participate in the liability scheme established by the Paris Convention.
  • Contracting parties to the Paris Convention may fix reduced liability amounts for low-risk nuclear installations and transport activities, with the minimum amounts being EUR 70 million for low-risk installations and EUR 80 million for transport activities.
  • The nuclear installation operator must have financial security equivalent to its liability. For the contracting parties to the Paris Convention with unlimited liability regimes, that security must equal either EUR 700 million or a reduced liability amount, whichever is applicable. Contracting parties to the Paris Convention are also required to ensure the payment of nuclear damage claims where the operator's financial security is unavailable or insufficient, up to the liability amount specified in the Convention.
  • The right to compensation expires if legal action is not brought within 30 years of the nuclear accident for nuclear damage in respect of loss of life and personal injury, and within 10 years for other nuclear damage. Longer periods are possible under certain circumstances.
  • The Paris Convention must be applied without any discrimination based on nationality, domicile or residence.
  • In general, the courts of the state where the nuclear incident occurred deal with compensation claims.

The Paris Convention provides for compensation for: loss of life or personal injury, and loss of or damage to property caused by a nuclear accident in a nuclear installation or during the transport of nuclear substances to and from installations. In addition, the Convention includes certain types of economic loss, the cost of measures to reinstate a significantly impaired environment, loss of income resulting from that impaired environment and the cost of preventive measures, including loss or damage caused by such measures. It does not cover damage to the nuclear installation itself.

Nuclear installations are defined as:

  • reactors other than those comprised in any means of transport;
  • factories for the: manufacture or processing of nuclear substances; separation of isotopes of nuclear fuel; and reprocessing of irradiated nuclear fuel;
  • facilities for the storage of nuclear substances other than storage incidental to the carriage of such substances;
  • installations for the disposal of nuclear substances;
  • any such reactor, factory, facility or installation that is in the course of being decommissioned; and
  • such other installations in which there are nuclear fuel or radioactive products or waste as the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy shall from time to time determine.

Nevertheless, the contracting parties to the Paris Convention may exclude a particular disposal facility in the post-closure phase from the application of the Paris Convention, where it no longer poses a significant risk and is therefore no longer under active surveillance. Facilities which do not involve high levels of radioactivity, such as those for uranium mining and milling and for the production of radioisotopes, are covered by general tort law rather than the Paris Convention.

The Paris Convention also applies to nuclear substances in transport from one nuclear operator to another. Liability is, in principle, imposed on the operator sending the nuclear substances since it will normally be responsible for its packing and containment. In the case of transport to or from operators in states that are not parties to the Paris Convention, special provisions apply to ensure that an operator to which the Convention regime applies will be liable.

The Paris Convention applies not only to nuclear damage suffered in the territory of a contracting party to the Convention (including its maritime zones or on board a ship or aircraft registered by such party), but also to nuclear damage suffered in a non-Paris Convention state (including its territories and maritime zones or on board a ship or aircraft registered by such state) if:

  • it is a party to the Vienna Convention and the 1988 Joint Protocol; or
  • it has no nuclear installations; or
  • its nuclear liability legislation affords equivalent reciprocal benefits and is based on principles identical to those contained in the Paris Convention.

The Paris Convention recognises the concerns of coastal states which allow maritime shipments of nuclear substances through their waters by including provisions to ensure that where a nuclear incident occurs in the exclusive economic zone of a contracting party to the Paris Convention, jurisdiction over claims for nuclear damage arising from that incident shall lie only with the courts of that coastal state.

The Paris Convention was adopted under the auspices of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and covers most Western European countries. It is open to any OECD country as of right and to any non-member with the consent of the other contracting parties.

The OECD Secretary-General is the depositary for the Paris Convention, which has been amended by Protocols adopted in 1964, 1982 and 2004.


  • Protocol of 12 February 2004 [German, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch]
    • Rectification of the Italian text of the 2004 Protocol [English | French]
    • Final act of the conference on the revision of the Paris Convention and the Brussels Supplementary Convention [English and French]
  • Unofficial compilation of the Decisions, Recommendations and Interpretations (DRI) applicable to the Paris Convention [English | French]
  • Selected DRI applicable to the Paris Convention
    • Nuclear installations in the process of being decommissioned (2014) [English | French]
    • Exclusion of small quantities of nuclear substances outside a nuclear installation (2016) [English | French]
    • Nuclear installations for the disposal of certain types of low-level radioactive waste (2016) [English | French]
    • Definition of "Radioisotopes which have reached the final stage of fabrication" (2018) [English | French]

Historical documents (no longer in force)

Read more

Read more about the Paris Convention on Nuclear Third Party Liability on the NEA Multilateral agreements in nuclear energy website.