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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

Case 8 - Nuclear power plant

from Part A - Scope of liable persons


A is the operator of a nuclear power plant. Due to a sudden breakdown of the cooling system, the surrounding land is contaminated by radioactive substances. The breakdown was caused by company C who had been in charge of the recent revision of the cooling system. Neighbour B suffers a loss.

Who is liable? What kind of damage may B claim?

Would it make any difference if the contamination was the result of a continuous process instead of a sudden incident?

Comparative remarks


Liability for nuclear power plants is mainly regulated by international law, namely, the Paris and Brussels Conventions. In Belgium, the Paris and Brussels Conventions were implemented by the Act of 22 July 1985, which was amended by the Act of 11 July 2000. Under the amendment, liability for the operator is limited to €300 million. In France, nuclear power plants are operated by the state-owned Electricité de France (EDF). As an établissement public industriel et commercial, EDF can be sued in civil court, though, according to special legislation, only the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris has jurisdiction. Liability is governed by Law No. 68-943 of 30 October 1968, as amended by Law No. 90-488 of 16 June 1990, and is limited to €90 million per accident. In the United Kingdom, the Paris Convention was implemented by the Nuclear Installations Acts of 1965 and 1969. The liability cap is currently £140 million.

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