Chernobyl: lessons in nuclear liability

A. S. Kwaczek, W. A. Kerr, Sian Mooney

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Chernobyl dumped significant quantities of radioactive fallout as far as 1300 miles away, causing severe economic loss in nations stretching from Sweden to Greece. European nations have calculated costs from deposition of nuclear materials in the hundreds of millions. The experience of sheep growers in North Wales illustrates the impact. Concentrations of cesium in lambs feeding on contaminated grass increased to such a level by mid-June (two months after the accident) that the government was forced to invoke emergency powers to prevent farmers from moving their sheep and lambs. Government policy to deal with the event had to be made on the spot, under pressure from disgruntled farmers, and equipment and personnel to carry out the policy had to be located and assembled. The accident at Chernobyl and the European experience with the consequences can offer several insights relevant to the US commercial nuclear industry. First, the aggregate effect of such an accident is extremely large and unpredictable. Second, adequate disaster planning can significantly reduce costs and ease the disruption. And finally, the experience raises questions about the adequacy of the nation's nuclear insurance and liability programs. Given the number of commissioned nuclear reactors today, the present scheme would provide financial compensation of approximately US$7 billion per incident. Depending on the circumstances this may not be sufficient. -from Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationForum for Applied Research & Public Policy
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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