Deep Geological Repositories and Nuclear Liability

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The disposal of long-lived radioactive waste in a deep geological repository (DGR) is a scientifically and technically credible solution that meets the need for long-term safety without reliance on active monitoring and management. Nevertheless, it is important to assess the potential risks that may be associated with such a nuclear installation and to ensure that an appropriate regime is in place to adequately compensate third parties in case they suffer nuclear damage caused by a DGR. Therefore, countries developing or intending to develop DGRs must take into account nuclear third party liability regime(s) as long as they apply to the disposal facilities. Those regimes establish a specific legal system that deviates from general tort law principles, including strict and exclusive liability of the operator of a nuclear installation, which will have to maintain a compulsory financial security to cover its liability.

Given the unusually long life cycles of such installations, this report discusses issues that concern future generations against the background of the currently applicable legal frameworks for the operation of nuclear installations, and existing technical knowledge, conscious that both will evolve. Nevertheless, it is important to identify and address potential issues regarding nuclear liability with the currently applicable legal frameworks and to set a clear framework for the applicable nuclear liability regime(s) during the different phases of operation of the DGR.