Legal aspects and liability

This research started with a focus on the implementation of the precautionary principle in nuclear law and practice, and was later continued by addressing international responsibility and liabilities.

Previous projects

• International responsibility and liabilities

Cliff Farhang started his research in 2008 in collaboration with K.U. Leuven on the appraisal of the law of state responsibility and international liability in relation to trans-frontier environmental damage arising from peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Nuclear activities can cause damage to states or individuals who are completely extraneous to the activities in question. Therefore, the potential role for the law of 'state responsibility' and the notion of 'international liability' has to be determined.

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• The precautionary principle in medical applications

Steven Lierman's PhD work (1998 – 2002) in collaboration with University of Antwerp focused on uncertainty in the context of medical applications of ionizing radiation. The precautionary principle urges policy-makers to quit traditional narrow risk-assessment models and adopt a broader, more pluralistic approach, considering the societal equilibrium, i.e. the general interest of the activity at stake, the general impact of individual protective measures and the existence of “reasonable” alternatives from a sociological, economical, scientific and technological point of view. These broader considerations already apply in radiation protection, for which optimization approaches have been developed based on the ALARA principle.

Scientific uncertainty about the causal relation between an activity and its health effects means that liability-claims cannot easily be substantiated. In his thesis, Steven Lierman argues that the precautionary principle should not be used in individual liability cases and that liability law is an inadequate tool if one is to prevent collective health damage.

He proposes a no-fault compensation scheme based on solidarity rather than liability, in addition to measures to improve prevention, and attempts to facilitate legal procedures by diminishing their financial cost and shortening their duration. In doing so, this research bridges the gaps between safety sciences and law as well as between experts and judges.

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References:

Lierman, S (2004). Voorzorg, preventie en aansprakelijkheid - gezondheidsrechtelijke analyse aan de hand van het gebruik van ioniserende straling in de geneeskunde. Antwerpen, Belgium  : Intersentia. 

Lierman S., Veuchelen L. (2006). The Optimisation Approach of ALARA in Nuclear Practice: An Early Application of the Precautionary Principle? Scientific Uncertainty versus Legal Uncertainty and its Role in Tort Law. In: European Environmental Law Review, 15:4, p. 98-107.

• Safety regulation in nuclear installations

Between 2001 and 2004 Chloée Degros, in collaboration with the UCL, researched the safety regulation of nuclear installations, focusing on how soft law instruments (as e.g. the IAEA Safety Series) are implemented and controlled. The responsibilities following administrative, criminal and civil law and the role of Peer Review and Third Party control on "Best Practices" were examined and discussed.

ContactGaston Meskens