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Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages in Turkey - Erkin Sancarbaba

In the current state, the ability of countries to establish a stable energy supply is an issue that concerns the security and future of nations. From Turkey's perspective, ensuring energy security represents the protection of national interests. In this direction, Turkey has positively differentiated itself from other countries in the region by demonstrating a strong will for the establishment of a long-term and stable energy supply. Utilizing both long-term energy contracts and mega projects that will meet the energy needs of future generations, it is aimed to eliminate unpredictable volatilities and geopolitical risks with a forward-looking, rational energy policy. The Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which was started to be built in 2015 and is planned to be operational in 2023, is one of the successful examples in the field of implementation of energy policy that considers long-term interests. In addition to being a promising and efficient energy source, nuclear energy has favorable conditions for the stable and clean energy supply that Turkey targets.However, due to the emergence of some risks and security concerns with nuclear energy production, the necessity of implementing certain legal regulations is an indisputable fact. Various international conventions have been prepared in this direction and regulate the provisions of third-party liability, as a result of possible nuclear incidents. One of the crucial agreements on the nuclear energy field is the 1960 Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (will be referred to as the Paris Convention), to which Turkey is also a contracting party. Another is the 1963 Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages. Although the Paris Convention, to which the Republic of Turkey is a party, contains important regulations in the context of third party liability in the field of nuclear energy, it was an important shortcoming that a regulation covering the subject area had not yet been made in domestic law, since the agreement determined the general framework. As a matter of fact, in the Nuclear Regulatory Act no. 7381, which has recently been enacted in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the issue of legal liability regarding nuclear damages was handled in a separate section (Section Five) and was regulated.

It is important to determine the limits of the operators’ liability in nuclear damage beforehand. The Paris Convention has determined the lower limits; however, it would be a more rational approach to create a manageable structure in determining the boundaries according to the internal dynamics of the countries. In the regulation, the liabilities of the operators are determined between 70 million Euros and 700 million Euros, depending on the type of facility or activity. Another important issue is that the damages exceeding the liability limit of the operator will be covered by the State.Although it is possible to determine the limits of the operators’ liability in much higher amounts, when the insurance and collateral costs are taken into account, it is understood that the liability limits are determined at a manageable level due to the possible negative effects of higher liability limits on the production cost and the difficulties in finding insurance and collateral. In this respect, it is important to keep the limits of the operators’ responsibility at an agreeable level in terms of realizing nuclear energy investments. Moreover, it is inevitable for the states of the countries, which preferred nuclear energy production, to be responsible for the compensation of damages that exceed the responsibility of the operators as a consequence. Answering the question of how the operators will compensate the damage in case of nuclear incidents within the limits of their liability will be possible by taking out insurance or providing collateral, as in the examples in the world.

Considering that it would not be easy to insure such a large amount of money, the method of establishing a "nuclear insurance pool" was adopted. Considering the reasons for the establishment and activities of Turk Reasurans AS, it is possible to state that this company will take an active role in the operation of the nuclear insurance pool.

The form and amount of compensation for nuclear damage will be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Turkish Code of Obligations, based on absolute liability and exclusive liability principles.

Persons affected by nuclear damage may demand compensation directly from the operator as well as from the insurer, nuclear insurance pool, and other guarantee providers, within the limits of the liability. Third parties affected by the damages may directly file a lawsuit against the aforementioned persons. The exception to the stated exercise of rights is the establishment of the Nuclear Damage Detection Commission by the President. Nuclear Damage Detection Commission will be established in cases where nuclear damage may exceed the liability limits specified in the act.

In this case, nuclear damages will be compensated through the Commission. In the case of establishment of the Nuclear Damage Detection Commission, the Ministry of Treasury and Finance receives the amount of money corresponding to the liability limit of the operator from the operator or the insurer of the operator; or by converting the collateral into cash.

The revocation and prescription have been outlined in detail in the Act adopted by the Assembly. Also, it has been bound to the rule that the courts of the Republic of Turkey are authorized regarding a nuclear incident that took place in the sovereignty of the Republic of Turkey.

The right of recourse and the statute of limitations are explained in detail in the act adopted by the parliament. The courts of the Republic of Turkey are authorized in relation to a nuclear incident that took place in the sovereignty area of ​​the Republic of Turkey.

The enactment of the Nuclear Regulatory Act in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey is an important step taken in line with the predictable and manageable energy policy that Turkey aims to implement. Thanks to the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which will be operational in the near future, Turkey will take its place among the countries that can produce nuclear energy. The regulation of third-party liability in the field of nuclear energy is in line with the achievements envisaged by the energy policies. The realization of the energy policy put forward by Turkey, which pursues stable and long-term goals, will be possible with the collective and solution-oriented work of the institutions of the Republic of Turkey. Establishing the necessary legal infrastructure and eliminating the deficiencies in the regulations are important in terms of reaching the targets determined in the field of energy. In this respect, the concrete will of the Turkish Grand National Assembly creates a suitable environment for the acceleration of regulations that will ensure long-term energy supply, and for the detection and solution of legal problems that may already exist. Although it will take time to establish the legal basis completely that is necessary for the realization of strategic energy investments within the scope of the Turkish energy policy, the efforts to be carried out in line with the goal of stable energy supply have vital importance.