RADIATION LITIGATION AND THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY—THE EXPERIENCE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
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In the United Kingdom, the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 places a "strict" statutory duty on the operators of nuclear facilities to ensure that any exposure to radiation resulting from operations does not cause injury or damage. A claimant does not have to prove fault to receive compensation under the Act, only causation. The 1965 Act has been fundamental in shaping litigation involving the nuclear industry in the UK. Civil law cases brought under the Act will be heard before a single judge (with no jury or technical assessor) who must present his or her decision in a reasoned judgment. This process leads to a considerable volume of expert evidence being presented to the court and extensive cross-examination of witnesses. The expense and uncertain outcome of cases involving claims by nuclear workers that occupational exposure to radiation had caused the development of cancer has led to employers and trade unions setting up the voluntary Compensation Scheme for Radiation-linked Diseases as an alternative to litigation. This Scheme has worked well and is held up as a model of alternative dispute resolution. However, a few cases concerning personal injury or damage to property have come before the courts when the defendant nuclear operator considered that the claims were technically unjustified and where settlement was not a policy option. As anticipated, these cases were lengthy, complex, and expensive. The radiation doses assessed to have been received by the individuals who were the subject of claims, whether workers or members of the public, have been crucial to the outcome. The technical expertise of health physicists and allied specialists has been vital in establishing defensible estimates of dose, and this contribution can be expected to remain of high importance in radiation litigation in the UK.
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