Nuclear Regulation Law No. 7381 [the “Law”] was published in the Official Gazette on March 8, 2022 and entered into force on the same day. The Law mainly regulates nuclear energy and ionizing radiation activities, as well as operators, facilities, devices, and other matters associated with these activities in detail.
While building the framework of the authority and responsibilities of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the Law also introduces strict liability for operators for nuclear damages that may arise during nuclear energy and ionizing radiation activities. These key legal concerns governed under the Law are briefly addressed in this article.
Strict Liability and Liability Limitations for Nuclear Facility Operators
According to the Law, the person operating the nuclear facility will be liable for the damages, and hence be responsible for compensation, regardless of whether the operator, personnel and the technology, goods and service providers related to the facility have had any fault in the occurrence of the nuclear incident. Therefore, the person operating a nuclear facility has a strict liability; in other words, it can be held liable for damages even if it has no fault in the nuclear incident’s happening. However, there are several exceptions to the operator's strict liability. In this respect, the operator will not be liable for any damage caused by a nuclear disaster that occurs as a result of an armed conflict, hostile acts, civil war, or an insurrection.
The law also sets limitations on how much the operator can be held liable for. Accordingly, the responsibility of the operator will be limited to following amounts:
- 700 million Euros for nuclear reactors with a thermal power of more than 10 megawatts and other nuclear facilities, as determined by the assessment to be conducted prior to the Authority issuing a license to operate a nuclear facility,
- 70 million Euros for nuclear facilities not included in the above scope,
- 80 million Euros for the transport of nuclear materials, and
- 700 million Euros for the transit of nuclear materials within the borders of the Republic of Turkey.
The Law obliges nuclear facility operators to get insurance or provide collateral in the above-mentioned amounts. Accordingly, affected persons will be able to claim their damages directly from the operator, insurer, nuclear insurance pool, and other guarantee providers.
If damages exceed the above-mentioned amounts, the Nuclear Damage Detection Commission [the “Commission"] will be established for the compensation of nuclear damages. Affected persons will need to make an application for compensation, which will then be evaluated by the Commission prior to compensation. Thereafter, the Commission will be able to collect the paid compensation within the above-mentioned liability limits, from the operator, its insurer, or the guarantee provided.
In circumstances where there is no provision regarding liability, the Paris Convention, to which Turkey is a party, will be applied.
Statute of Limitations and Competent Court
According to the Law, different statute of limitations applies to loss of life and personal injury, and other damages. In this respect, for compensation claims regarding loss of life and personal injury the statute of limitations is 30 [thirty] years from the date of the nuclear incident, while for other damages the statute of limitations is 10 [ten] years. In addition, Turkish courts are authorized in nuclear incidents that took place within the borders of the Republic of Turkey, and Ankara courts have been given final jurisdiction in these proceedings.
Nuclear Regulation Authority and License Requirement
Activities governed by the Law can only be exercised after the notification of or authorization by Nuclear Regulatory Authority [“The Authority”]. It is required to obtain a license from the Authority in order to operate a nuclear facility, a radiation facility, a radioactive waste facility, or to carry out radiation applications.
On the other hand, the NUTED Nuclear Technical Support Joint Stock Company was established as a private legal entity to provide technical support services such as consultancy, surveillance, inspection, research, inspection, testing, control, training, and certification to the Authority as needed.
The Law additionally regulates punitive and administrative sanctions, indicating that individuals who commit the acts enumerated in the relevant provisions will be punished with imprisonment or a fine.
By Baris Ulker, Senior Associate, and Beliz Boyalikli, Legal Trainee, Guleryuz & Partners