Tort law makes a quantum leap: a review of the civil liability regime for nuclear operators in UAE law

Document Type


Source of Publication

Journal of Property, Planning and Environmental Law

Publication Date



© 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: This study aims to illustrate the special liability regime applying to a nuclear operator for damage caused to individuals, property and natural resources, after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage of 1963 through Federal Law No. 4 of 2012. This paper contrasts this special regime with the default regime of civil liability set out in the UAE Civil Code. The comparison helps clarify the legal nature of nuclear operator liability, the extent of protection it affords to the parties injured in a nuclear incident, the conditions under which it obtains, as well as the different damage headings it allows. Design/methodology/approach: This paper is a desk-based legal research. Findings: The main novelties enshrined in the special liability regime for nuclear facility operators are the adoption of an objective approach (strict liability) and the introduction of exceptions different from those contemplated in the default regime spelled out in the UAE Civil Code, thereby affording greater protection to victims of nuclear leakages. Originality/value: This paper is a first in-depth commentary of UAE Federal Law No. 4 of 2012 Concerning Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage. Considering the UAE’s dualistic approach to the implementation of international obligations, and the present lack of reliable alternative avenues towards compensation beyond private operator liability, the overview provided here will be of value to regional and international practitioners – including from neighbouring countries to the UAE (Oman, Qatar, Bahrain) – that are not currently signatories to any convention on nuclear liability.




Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.


Social and Behavioral Sciences


Civil liability, Nuclear liability, Radioactive release, Tort, United Arab Emirates, Vienna Convention

Scopus ID


Indexed in Scopus


Open Access