Magazine article UN Chronicle

Consensus Reached on Draft Principles on Nuclear Power Sources

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Consensus Reached on Draft Principles on Nuclear Power Sources

Article excerpt

During its 1991 session (27 May-7 June, Graz, Austria), the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space reached consensus on the text of two draft principles on the safe uses of nuclear power sources in outer space. They deal with responsibility for national activities in outer space, and liability and compensation for damage caused by space objects. The Committee's Legal Subcommittee is drawing up a set of international principles and guidelines for the use of nuclear power sources, including such issues as notification of the presence of a nuclear power source on board a space object, definition of a launching State, publication of safety assessment reports prior to launch, and guidelines and criteria for safe use of a nuclear power source in outer space.

In its report (A/46/20), the Committee urged its Subcommittee to complete the draft principles as soon as possible.

Canada and Germany proposed the text of the two draft principles. By one draft principle, States bear international responsibility for national activities involving the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, whether such activities were carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities. When outer space activities involving the use of nuclear power sources were carried out by an international organization, responsibility would be borne both by the international organization and the participating States.

The draft principle on liability and compensation states that each country which launched or procured the launching of a space object, and each State from whose territory or facility a space object was launched, would be internationally liable for damage caused by such space objects or their component parts. That also applied to objects carrying a nuclear power source on board. Two or more States jointly launching a space object would be jointly and severally liable for damage. Compensation would include reimbursement of expenses for search, recovery and clean-up operations.

A 'rational necessity'

Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock told the Committee that cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, once considered a moral and political postulate, had become a rational necessity. Times of confrontation in outer space, partly due to recent changes in the world political situation, belonged to the past. National narrowness should be replaced with global generosity, and confrontation with cooperation.

Vasiliy S. Safronchuk, UnderSecretary-General for Political and Security Council Affairs, said the potential benefits of space activities had not been fully realized for all countries. The exchange, of scientific and technical information should be facilitated and technical assistance to developing countries expanded.

Peter Hohenfellner of Austria this year replaced Committee Chairman Peter Jankowitsch, also of Austria, who had served as Chairman for 20 years.

Other issues

The 53-member Outer Space Committee also considered the following subjects:

* The 1992 International Space Year (ISY): Agreeing that a good way to broaden and deepen international cooperation in outer space was through international and regional programmes such as the Year, the Committee noted that the UN programme of activities for the Year would focus primarily on the use of space technology for studying and monitoring the global environment.

* Remote sensing: The Committee recognized the importance of continuing international efforts to ensure the continuity, compatibility and complementarity of systems for remote sensing of the Earth and to promote cooperation through regular meetings between satellite operators, ground station operators and users. …

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