HC Deb 10 February 1958 vol 582 cc6-7W
Mr. Fort

asked the Paymaster-General what steps the Government intend to take to protect the public against the risks of radioactive contamination resulting from the operation of nuclear reactors by bodies other than the Atomic Energy Authority.

Sir I. Horobin

The Government intend to introduce legislation to ensure, by a system of licensing and inspection, that nuclear reactors on land are made effectively subject to control in the interest of public safety. All owners of such reactors will be subject to the same duty as the Atomic Energy Authority of preventing damage to property or personal injury from radioactive contamination. They will, therefore, be liable to pay compensation for such damage even if it is due to an unavoidable accident, except of course to the extent that the claimant injured has been guilty of contributory negligence. In order to make this provision effective a reactor owner will be required to insure his liability or to show that he is holding adequate liquid assets. In these circumstances, the Government have decided that it would be right to put some limit on the amount of compensation which reactor owners might have to pay in respect of any one incident. They propose, therefore, to include in the legislation a provision fixing this limit at £5 million in respect of each installation, a figure which they are advised is much more than adequate to cover any reasonably foreseeable risk.

The insurance market has informed the Government that it is ready to provide the necessary cover.

The liability of the Atomic Energy Authority will be unaffected.

Problems of reactors in ships, submarines and aircraft require further study having regard particularly to the international aspects.

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