The Government approved Lithuania’s accession to international agreements on nuclear damages indemnification


2020 11 26


The Government today approved draft legal acts on accession to international agreements, which will create preconditions for strengthening Lithuania’s ability to claim damages and receive higher compensation in the event of a nuclear accident in a foreign state. The final decisions will be made by the Seimas, which ratifies international treaties.  

“These are consistent and purposeful steps in defending the interests of our state and its citizens as Belarus continues to implement the geopolitical nuclear power plant project in Astravets. Joining international agreements on damages will strengthen our ability to claim damages in the event of a nuclear accident, and at the same time we will have a political instrument to claim responsibility from Belarus at an even wider international level,” says Minister of Energy Žygimantas Vaičiūnas.

The obligations of states to compensate for damages in the event of a nuclear accident are governed by a number of international instruments. Most of Lithuania’s neighbouring states have joined the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage of 21 May 1963 (hereinafter referred to as the Vienna Convention) and the international mechanisms for civil liability for nuclear damage established by the Protocol of 12 September 1997 amending the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage as of 1963 (hereinafter referred to as the Protocol on the Vienna Convention), which extends the obligations of states  to compensate for damage.

Lithuania has already acceded to the Vienna Convention and has signed, but not yet ratified, the Protocol on the Vienna Convention. This means that there is a risk that in the event of a nuclear accident at nuclear facilities, Lithuanian residents may receive lower compensation.

In order to extend the guarantees to the Lithuanian residents regarding civil liability for nuclear damage, the Government approved the proposal to join the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage of 12 September 1977 (hereinafter referred to as the Supplementary Compensation Convention). Under this Convention, a system of a public international fund has been created under which, in the event of a nuclear accident, the agreeing states are required to make monetary contributions of up to EUR 300 million of the amount of special drawing rights (~ EUR 360 million) under a pre-arranged mechanism, and the fund is independent of the economic situation and government decisions of the country in which the nuclear accident took place. This would increase the chances of residents or businesses affected by the accident receiving damage compensation.

Lithuania’s ratification of the Supplementary Compensation Convention would provide a basis for other countries in the Convention (including the United States, Japan, Canada) to seek that other countries in the region, including Belarus, to increase civil liability guarantees for nuclear damage.

Proper harmonisation of this issue is also important for Lithuania. Although the potential accident risks during the decommissioning works at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant are decreasing and their consequences would be smaller, Lithuania’s responsibility does not disappear at all, as Lithuania has and will have facilities for management and storage of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. In order to fulfil Lithuania’s obligations, the civil liability of SE Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant will have to be insured. According to expert estimates, it could cost about EUR 100 thousand.