ABU DHABI // A UAE law covering the country's first nuclear power plants has placed liability for any problems squarely on the shoulders of the operator.
Among the requirements in the Civil Nuclear Liability law is one that states the operator must provide an extraordinary Dh2.5billion in insurance to cover any possible claims against it.
"The establishment of such a robust nuclear liability regime is another step forward in the UAE Government's responsible approach to developing a solid regulatory framework for its peaceful nuclear energy programme," said Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Construction of the UAE's first nuclear power plant began in July this year, and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) will be the sole operator.
Under the law, Enec will be held exclusively responsible for any possible damages, even from a natural disaster.
Enec said it welcomed the law, which it described as being in line with international best practices.
"This law was drafted in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, which the UAE acceded to in August," Mr Al Kaabi said.
It was signed on August 13 by the President, Sheikh Khalifa.
Under the law, any individual or group seeking to lay a claim against Enec will have to do so through the capital’s federal court system.
“In the case of damages overseas, according to the Vienna Convention, the claimant has to file their complaint with the Abu Dhabi federal courts if the country is a signatory of the convention,” Mr Al Kaabi said.
He said the law was drafted after a long review process involving the IAEA, international consultants and local stakeholders.
“This new liability regime provides a clear and predictable process for the public and nuclear industry to deal with compensation for damages that may arise in the case of a nuclear accident,” Mr Al Kaabi said. “The definition of a nuclear incident under UAE law is wide and varies from a nuclear plant accident resulting in loss of life, to environmental and financial damages.”
The law allows Enec to seek insurance coverage from anywhere in the world.
The Vienna Convention states the maximum damages payable to anyone affected by a nuclear accident is 350 million Special Drawing Rights (SDRs).
SDRs are a mixture of currency values determined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
One SDR is currently equal to US$1.54 (Dh5.66).
The UAE added 100 million SDRs to the convention’s value to make the total maximum amount payable Dh2.5 billion – one of the highest amounts payable in the world.
Mr Al Kaabi said the higher compensation value was agreed to after thoroughly reviewing the insurance market, and in light of the strict operating standards being followed.
“It was a matter of balance and we felt comfortable with this value,” he said.
In the event that the operator is not able to secure an insurance payout, the UAE Government will cover the amount.
The law also states that claimants do not need to prove negligence or any type of fault on the part of the operator to make a claim.
“This is consistent with the recognised international principles on nuclear liability,” Mr Al Kaabi said.
He said the UAE would work with other Arabian Gulf countries to help them draft similar legislation.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain have all expressed interest in developing peaceful nuclear energy programmes but have yet to implement them.