UPDATE: November 30
If, God forbid, a nuclear power plant goes kaboom and you have to flee your home, then on top of all of the other problems you’ll have, here are two more:
1. Your homeowner’s insurance will not reimburse you. This is because of the Price Anderson Act, which limits the liability of nuclear power plant operators to a tiny fraction of the potential costs of an accident–terrorist-sponsored or otherwise. The act prevents insurance companies from suing the nuclear power industry to recover damages–which is why they can’t afford to include nuclear accidents in homeowner’s coverage.
2. You will, however, as a taxpayer be indirectly picking up the tab for the accident. Somebody has to–and the Price Anderson Act says it won’t be the industry.
Price-Anderson, the nuclear power industry’s 1950s-era insurance subsidy, is up for renewal, something that happens every fifteen years or so. And on a bleary, post-Thanksgiving Tuesday, November 27, the House Republicans sneaked it through. They did so under a format usually reserved for noncontroversial matters, like renaming post offices or court houses–“suspension of the rules”–which meant debates were limited to twenty minutes on each side, with no ammendments and no record of the votes. Keith Ashdown, a spokesman for Taxpayers for Common Sense, called it “an abuse of the legislative process.”
Considering that George W. Bush became President via the Supreme Court’s equivalent of “suspension of the rules,” it’s unsurprising that the Administration was pleased. A White House statement praised the House vote, noting, “To assure the future of nuclear energy, liability coverage must continue for nuclear activities.”
So the White House–which launched the atomic “renaissance” now under way by talking up the virtues of nuclear power–makes the interesting admission that the nuclear industry could never survive in a free-market system.
For Price-Anderson to sail to the rescue of this poor widdle uncompetitive puddy-tat of an industry, the Democratic-controlled Senate also must agree. Majority leader Tom Daschle said on November 27 the topic might come up in January.
Go to the website of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (www.nrc.gov), and you’ll find an apology for how thin the information is there. On October 11 the website was closed; now bits and pieces are slowly re-emerging. Susan Gagner, an NRC press spokeswoman, says the site is being “scrubbed” of information that might be useful to terrorists. She said the NRC had been asked to take that action by “another government agency,” but would not say which one. Another NRC spokesman told Reuters they were removing, for example, latitude and longitude coordinates of nuclear reactors, plant schematics and so on. Note that a full monthafter September 11, the NRC had to be toldto do this by someone else!