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Senate Appropriations Bill Would Extend Unwarranted Insurance Subsidies to Proposed New Nuclear Reactors

Jan. 17, 2003

Senate Appropriations Bill Would Extend Unwarranted Insurance Subsidies to Proposed New Nuclear Reactors

Groups Urge Opposition to Price-Anderson Rider

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators should oppose a rider on the appropriations bill that reauthorizes the Price-Anderson Act, an archaic nuclear power subsidy, national environmental, public interest and taxpayer groups said today. Eight groups signed and circulated a letter today, as the Senate began its second day of debate on the FY2003 omnibus spending package.

“This anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-taxpayer rider has no place in the appropriations package,” the groups wrote. “The Price-Anderson Act represents an unfair subsidy to the nuclear industry and will not lead to a safe, clean affordable energy future. At a time when the public is demanding corporate accountability, the Price-Anderson Act encourages nuclear irresponsibility.”

Originally enacted in 1957 as a temporary measure to jump-start the nascent nuclear power industry, the Price-Anderson Act caps the public liability of nuclear power plant operators. This arrangement limits compensation available to the public in the event of an accident or attack, while conferring a substantial annual subsidy to the nuclear industry in terms of foregone insurance premiums. Although the Price-Anderson Act expired on Aug. 1, 2002, existing reactors continue to be covered by a grandfather clause. Reauthorizing the act would extend this subsidy to proposed new reactors licensed within the next 15 years, without addressing their security vulnerabilities.

“If these reactor designs are as safe as the industry claims and do not pose an undue risk to public health and safety, the industry should be held accountable for their safety by obtaining private insurance,” said Lisa Gue, senior energy analyst with Public Citizen.

Added Jill Lancelot, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, “There is no justification for continuing this unfair subsidy to a mature industry. Reauthorizing the Price-Anderson Act leaves the public unprotected, nuclear operators unaccountable, and taxpayers potentially on the hook for billions of dollars in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.”

Click here to view the letter.