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The Price-Anderson Act: Limited Liability for the Nuclear Industry

June 1987

Citation: ELR 10185

Author: Arnold W. Reitze Jr.and Deborah J. Rowe

Editors' Summary: The Price-Anderson Act, established in 1957 to encourage the then-fledgling commercial nuclear power industry by providing it with relative immunity from liability for an accident, expires August 1, 1987. Disagreements over whether and how the law should be renewed and modified have side-tracked legislation over the past few years, but with the August deadline nearing, congressional efforts have been stepped up. In this Article, Professor Reitze and Ms. Rowe discuss the purposes of the Price-Anderson Act and pose four fundamental questions regarding the future of the Act and any amending legislation. Significantly, the authors argue that the Act is woefully under-funded in the event of a serious accident and that the vagaries of the tort system will leave many victims undercompensated or not compensated at all. The authors also argue that the present system does not fairly allocate the insurance risks by effectively creating a system where premiums are deferred, creating only the illusion of coverage. The authors conclude that if the insurance industry is not willing to provide adequate liability coverage, the electric utility industry should create a self-insured compensation fund to more expeditiously and completely compensate victims of a nuclear power plant accident.

Arnold W. Reitze Jr. is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Environmental Law Program at George Washington University. He received his J.D. from Rutgers University in 1962, and his MPH in environmental health science from Johns Hopkins University in 1985. Deborah J. Rowe received her J.D. from George Washington University in 1987 and her B.A. from Colby College in 1981. Appreciation is expressed to George Carlo, Ph.D., and Professor Harold Green for their valuable comments.

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