Price-Anderson Act Nuclear Accident Liability Protection

Gao ID: T-RCED-87-33 June 17, 1987

GAO discussed its work on the Price-Anderson Act's expiring indemnification provisions. GAO noted that: (1) the act's financial protection would not apply to contracts the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded after expiration; and (2) the existing act does not provide the public with the same level of protection for accidents at DOE nuclear facilities as at commercial facilities. GAO believes that Congress should extend the indemnification provisions because: (1) the potential for a serious accident still exists; (2) private insurance to fully cover the expected consequences of a catastrophic accident is unavailable; (3) the nuclear industry is unwilling to operate without adequate financial protection; and (4) the public might not be able to expect injury and damage compensation if an accident bankrupted the responsible organization. GAO also believes that: (1) Congress should make liability coverage identical for DOE and commercial facilities; (2) Congress may wish to explicitly extend the act's coverage to the costs of precautionary evacuations; (3) legislation to amend the act should include a statutory limitation on claims; and (4) Congress should consider who should be responsible for penalties imposed by the act.

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