Nuclear Accident Liability and Insurance in the EU

The EU Commission has just launched a consultation on the topic. Anyone can participate. The consultation is open until October 22. Thanks to this tweet by Alice Stollmeyer for the link.

I learned from that consultation document that nuclear provides for two thirds of low carbon electricity in the EU (probably mainly because of the high French nuclear share).

They also have a table looking at the amount of insurance the various Member States require. These amounts are not the same everywhere. The smallest amount is EUR 43.9 million in Croatia (Member State since July of this year), and the biggest is EUR 2.5 billion in Germany.

Even EUR 2.5 billion is not quite sufficient. Therefore, the Commission has proposed discussing these questions, with a view to adapting legislation, last fall. This public consultation is the first step in that process.

If the result of that is to require unlimited insurance coverage for nuclear accidents, that would be the end of nuclear energy in the EU right there. As Munich Re Board Member Torsten Jeworrek remarked last October when this question popped up first, the insurance industry would be unable to offer unlimited coverage. They can only provide coverage up to certain limits, though these could be set considerably higher than in the past.

That in turn means that as far as there is a gap between the amount of damage payments actually needed after a severe accident and the minimum insurance coverage mentioned above, the taxpayer will need to cover those damages. This has the effect of making nuclear energy look cheaper than it actually is.

It will be interesting to see if there is any EU legislation on this question.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

2 thoughts on “Nuclear Accident Liability and Insurance in the EU

  1. No problem for nuclear to provide full coverage of the consequences of an accident.
    On the day fossil plants get full coverage of the consequences of global warming.

    Or else it’s not just differential treatment, but one in favor of global warming.

    Just covering the consequence their atmospheric emissions have on health would bankrupt them (based on )

    Many domain have liability limits, the BTI references plane crashes, oil spills, product liability, medical malpractice, hydroelectric dams. Your personal insurance has a coverage limit, etc.

    The US have an interesting system, they used a pooled insurance shared between all the nuclear companies. First this allows the insured amount to go higher, 12 billion $, without huge individual payment, second, it reflects the fact that an accident at one company impact every nuclear company, and stimulates them to share experience very openly to minimize the risk of them happening. Because ultimately the aim is for no accident to happen, and to be certain the proper procedures have been put in place so that they don’t happen.
    In Europe, we have the advantage of many different culture, which means that if inspection are handled at the European level, we have the big gain compared to Japan and Korea that there’s almost no risk of collusion between inspectors and inspectees, a French company will never succeed in getting a German inspector to not look too carefully, and reciprocally.


  2. Thanks for your comment. I am late in answering since I staid away from my blog for a couple of days, at the occasion of my father’s funeral.

    It is true that fossil fuel plants get an even more favorable deal. Especially when factoring in the costs of global warming, which are already over a trillion dollars a year right now:

    If there is a limit on liability, that means either that only part of the damages get paid, or that the taxpayer funds the difference. Which is what happens right now in Europe.

    There already is a European system of inspection. There is European law on nuclear safety, and the recent “stress test” exercise is based on it.


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