NEI urges court to reconsider ruling on nuclear-liability threshold

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is urging the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision on the ability to recover damages from nuclear facilities even if no damage occurs, the group said late last week.

The court's ruling said radiological releases onto property can be considered damage to plaintiffs if it becomes annoying, offensive or inconvenient. The NEI said this standard is lower than the federal limits set by the Price-Anderson Act.

“If left in place, this unprecedented decision would undermine Price-Anderson, part of the comprehensive system which Congress put in place to protect the public by establishing federal safety standards and ensuring adequate funds are available to satisfy legal claims in the event of a nuclear incident,” Ellen Ginsberg, NEI's vice president, secretary and general counsel, said.

The NEI said there is no authority that would support lower standards of claims by any state over the federal law. With this ruling, the court said plaintiffs can receive damages for an event that would not be considered a nuclear accident under federal law.

“Before the recent 10th Circuit decision, every federal court of appeals to address the issue had held that the Price-Anderson Act establishes an exclusive federal remedial system that completely pre-empts state-law claims arising from an asserted nuclear incident,” Ginsberg said.

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