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Federal judge dismisses nuke case in Apollo | TribLIVE.com
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Federal judge dismisses nuke case in Apollo

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, September 16, 2015 4:36 a.m

A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed most of the lawsuits alleging scores of people were harmed by former nuclear operations in Apollo.

U.S. District Judge David Stewart Cercone affirmed a May opinion by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell that the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient evidence that radioactive materials were released at levels higher than permitted, or that the plaintiffs were exposed to harmful levels of radiation.

“Thus, the law is clear that Plaintiffs must provide evidence of their exposure to inhaled uranium from the Apollo plant and an estimate of the dose they received which caused their cancers,” Mitchell wrote in his May opinion. “Yet … Plaintiffs’ experts have failed to meet this evidentiary burden.”

The opinions of Cercone and Mitchell result in the dismissal of 11 of the 15 related lawsuits pending against the Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc. and Atlantic Richfield Co., the successors of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC).

The companies operated a uranium fuel processing plant in Apollo and a plutonium plant in Parks Township from about 1953 to 1983.

Mitchell noted the Parks facility was eliminated from the lawsuits and only alleged injuries linked to the inhalation of enriched uranium released from the Apollo facility remain at issue.

More than 200 people who worked at or lived near the Apollo plant, or survivors of those people, were included in the lawsuits; some have since been terminated from the suits.

Mitchell estimated 138 plaintiffs remain involved in the 15 suits, all filed since 2010.

These lawsuits were filed by people alleging their ailments were diagnosed after earlier legal action against the companies that was settled for $80 million.

Four of the most recent lawsuits that include about 33 plaintiffs still are pending and were not dismissed by Tuesday’s ruling.

However, the judges limited the remaining suits’ scope to only one of the five to eight claims made.

The judges ruled only the one count that claims the companies have liability under the federal Price-Anderson Act can continue.

The judges agreed with the companies’ argument that the remaining claims — including negligence, nuisance, trespass, misrepresentation, conspiracy and wrongful death — were made under state laws that are pre-empted by the federal act that oversees liability-related issues for non-military nuclear facilities.

It was not clear whether Tuesday’s ruling can be appealed.

Jonathan Orent, an attorney for the plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Also unreachable were Nancy Milburn and John Phillips, attorneys for Atlantic Richfield and Babcock & Wilcox, respectively.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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