Taxpayers, Not Private Insurance Companies, Will Pay for Nuclear Accidents
Administration Applauds US Senate Vote to Extend Nuclear Power Special Privilege
After abandoning free trade by imposing protectionist steel tariffs, now the Bush administration is abandoning free market competition. The issue? Bush wants taxpayers, rather than nuclear power plants, to be held liable for damages if the power plants melt down. No other power providers enjoy such a special privilege.
Here are some portion of a recent Reuters report on this subject.
by Tom DoggettWASHINGTON - As the Senate continued to debate a broad energy bill, lawmakers quietly voted to extend a federal law providing nuclear power plant operators with special government liability insurance that would kick in if there was a major accident at one of their facilities.
The Bush administration sees the anti-free market law as critical to having more nuclear power plants built across the country. [Vice President Cheney earlier admitted that no one would invest in nuclear power if it did not have special privileges. It's not competitive.]
Nuclear power provides about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. Industry supporters say nuclear plants are a clean energy source, producing no emissions that would contribute to global warming. [So why does it need Communist-style government protection? Only the corrupt seek government bailouts instead of free markets.]
The Senate voted to reauthorize the so-called Price Anderson Act, which is set to expire this August, and provide nuclear liability insurance for another 10 years. The House of Representatives approved a longer 15-year extension of the law last November.
The Senate's decision to extend the law came in the form of an amendment to comprehensive energy legislation it is debating. The Senate bill, if eventually passed, would have to be reconciled with energy legislation that has already cleared the House.
Under Price Anderson, the nation's 103 operating nuclear plants are protected from liability claims exceeding $9.3 billion in the event of a serious accident. If the cost of a nuclear accident was larger than that amount, the law would require the taxpayers to pay the rest. [No other power plants enjoy such a privilege.]
The act, passed originally in the mid-1950s to help nuclear power plants get started, requires nuclear plant operators to each carry a maximum accident insurance policy of only $200 million. If that was not enough to cover the costs of an accident at a particular plant, each of the nation's other reactors would chip in up to $88 million to collectively fund a $9.1 billion pool for paying claims for large accidents. [Any serious accident would result in far greater liability, for which the power plants are not insuring themselves at all.]
The Senate also agreed to modify the law so several new, small reactors that are built at one location would need to have just one insurance policy.
Lawmakers also agreed to an amendment requiring a study on whether hydraulic fracturing - a technique used by energy companies to recover oil and natural gas by injecting into the ground a combination of sand, water and chemicals - should be exempt from federal safe water regulations.
Environmental groups opposed the move, arguing that drinking water supplies must be protected from pollution by oil and natural gas exploration, especially in western states where drilling is on the rise.
Do you prefer a free market for power plants, or do you want the federal government choosing winners and losers and giving huge artificial subsidies to its favorites? If a power plant or some other business cannot survive in a free market, should it receive bailouts paid for by the taxpayers? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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