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Article Italy: Law on Ratification and Implementation of Nuclear Energy Treaties Promulgated

(Sept. 2, 2020) On July 23, 2020, the president of Italy promulgated a new law implementing several multinational nuclear energy treaties, fulfilling the treaties’ implementation requirements, and amending Italian legislation to update provisions on nuclear damage and liability. Law No. 97 of July 23, 2020 ratifies and orders the implementation of the “Paris Convention” (Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy of 29 July 1960, as amended by the Additional Protocol of 28 January 1964 and the Protocol of 16 November 1982) and the “Brussels Supplementary Convention” of 31 January 1963. The new law will enter into effect on October 10, 2020.

Expansion of Current Concepts

Law No. 97 amends Law No. 1860 of December 31, 1962, on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy to broaden the definition of “nuclear installations” to include installations intended for the disposal of nuclear substances; reactors or plants being decommissioned; and all other storing installations for nuclear fuels and radioactive products or waste, as qualified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Nuclear Energy Agency Steering Committee. (Law No. 97, art. 3(2)(a)(b).)

The law extends the concept of “nuclear damage” to encompass any economic loss resulting from a nuclear harm suffered by a person and expands the term “environmental damage” caused by nuclear activities to include any losses of earnings connected with a direct economic interest stemming from any use or enjoyment of the environment. (Art. 3(2)(c)(3.1), (3.3).) It also extends the scope of compensation for nuclear damage to include the costs of restoration measures applied to a degraded environment, except when such degradation is negligible. (Art. 3(2)(c)(3.2).)

Equally, the law more specifically defines environmental “reintegration measures” to include all reasonable measures approved by the competent authorities aimed at reintegrating or restoring damaged or destroyed components of the environment, or introducing, when reasonable, the equivalent of such components into the environment. (Art. 3(2)(c)(4)(f-ter).) By the same token, the law conceptualizes “preventive measures” as all reasonable measures taken by anyone to prevent or minimize nuclear damage after the occurrence of a nuclear accident or an event that creates a serious and imminent threat of nuclear damage. (Art. 3(2)(c)(4)(f-quater).)

Liability for Nuclear Damage

Under the new law, the transfer of liability from one operator of a nuclear installation to another occurs only when the latter has a direct economic interest in the nuclear substances that are being transported and that caused the damage. (Art. 3(5)(c).) Insurance policies or other financial guarantees provided to respond to environmental damage caused during the transportation of nuclear substances must also extend to all nuclear damage resulting to the respective railroad from the nuclear accident. (Art. 3(5)(e).) Defenses to liability for nuclear damage include the victim’s gross negligence or contributory negligence. (Art. 3(7)(d).)

In any case, the law caps the amount of compensation for nuclear damage caused by the operator of a nuclear plant or means of nuclear transportation at 700 million euros (€) (about US$827 million) for each nuclear accident. After that limit is reached, and provided that all insurance or other financial guarantees are exhausted, the state responds for the remainder of the damage up to the amount of €1.2 billion (about US$1.4 million). All unpaid amounts beyond this latter limit up to the amount of €1.5 billion (about US$1.7 million) are borne by the contracting parties to the Protocol Amending the Convention of 1963 and the Protocol of 2004. (Art. 3(8)(1)–(3).)

Legal actions to claim compensation for nuclear damage suffered must be filed within a three-year statute of limitations from the moment when the injured person became aware or should reasonably have known about that damage and the responsible operator. (Art. 3(10)(1).)

The ministries in charge of the environment and of economic development are to add a section on their institutional internet sites dedicated to the rights of victims to compensation for nuclear damage recognized under the newly ratified treaties. (Art. 3(10)(3).)

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