Liability for nuclear installations

In the first case of its kind, the High Court has ruled that the strict liability regime under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 does not cover pure economic loss which may result from radioactive discharges. The statutory provisions are to be interpreted as restricting liability to personal injury and physical damage to property. The decision in Merlin and Others v British Nuclear Fuels plc (Times Law Reports, 3 April 1990) implies that under present law any compensation for widespread economic losses would be a matter for Government discretion rather than operator liability.

The case arose out of the discharge of radioactive waste from BNF's nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, Cumbria. The plaintiffs lived some six miles away, and claimed that their house had been contaminated by radionuclides which had originated from waste discharged into the Irish Sea, and reached their house via mud deposits in the Ravenglass estuary. BNF did not dispute the levels of radioactivity in the house, nor the allegation that t

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