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Groups Praise Reid?s Efforts to Block Price-Anderson Reauthorization

March 8, 2002

Groups Praise Reid?s Efforts to Block Price-Anderson Reauthorization

Nevada Senators Opposed Extension of Nuclear Subsidies

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? National consumer and environmental organizations today praised Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for attempting to wean the nuclear industry from its reliance on taxpayer-backed insurance.

Reid on Thursday introduced an amendment to Senate energy legislation that would have phased out the “Price-Anderson” insurance subsidy for new nuclear reactors and established minimal financial qualifications to ensure that operators could meet their obligations in the event of an accident.

Reid later withdrew his amendment while continuing to urge defeat of a proposal to extend Price-Anderson coverage to new nuclear power plants. The Price-Anderson Act limits the liability of nuclear operators, leaving the public inadequately protected and the industry unaccountable in the event of a serious accident. Instead, the government ? i.e., taxpayers ? would foot the bill. The act also serves as a subsidy because it allows the nuclear power industry to pay lower insurance premiums. This distorts electricity markets, conferring an artificial advantage to the nuclear power industry over safer, cleaner sources of electricity.

A coalition of 15 national environmental, taxpayer, and consumer organizations, including Public Citizen, Sierra Club, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Natural Resources Defense Council, this week sent a letter to the Senate opposing Price-Anderson reauthorization and urging passage of Reid?s amendment. Despite the efforts of Reid and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), however, the Senate voted 78-21 on Thursday to reauthorize Price-Anderson for 10 years.

The Price-Anderson Act was due to expire on Aug. 1, although existing nuclear reactors would continue to be covered. If the energy bill passes, the act will be reauthorized for another 10 years, extending the subsidy to proposed new nuclear power plants. The U.S. House of Representatives has already voted to reauthorize the act.

“We are greatly appreciative of Senator Reid?s efforts,” said Lisa Gue, policy analyst with Public Citizen?s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. “Reauthorization of the Price-Anderson Act is a step backwards for the environment and public safety, and is in direct conflict with sustainable energy goals.”