Congress Should Increase Financial Protection to the Public From Accidents at DOE Nuclear Operations

Gao ID: EMD-81-111 September 14, 1981

GAO examined the Price-Anderson Act as it governs the nuclear accident liability of Department of Energy (DOE) contractors to determine the number of DOE contractors protected by the act, and to render an opinion on the necessity for continuing such protection.

The act provides protection to both DOE contractors and the public to cover liability resulting from a nuclear accident. Although 75 DOE prime contractors are specifically protected by the act, the protection is also extended to many thousands of subcontractors working at DOE facilities. GAO believes that the protection provided by the act should be continued. This conclusion was arrived at after carefully considering the current U.S. position to develop nuclear power and the availability of other forms of insurance for nuclear activities. GAO believes that certain provisions in the act should be changed or clarified to provide better public protection from catastrophic nuclear accidents. For example, the act provides more financial protection for accidents resulting from a commercial activity than those resulting from a government operation. Further, the current limit on liability may not provide sufficient public financial protection to adequately compensate victims of catastrophic nuclear accidents. Moreover, GAO believes that the act's definition of a nuclear incident is unclear. As a result, liability arising from some nuclear accidents may not be covered.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: Daniel C. White Team: General Accounting Office: Energy and Minerals Division Phone: (301) 353-4761

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