Report to the Congress from the Presidential Commission on Catastrophic Nuclear Accidents


Absolute risk model - This model is used for expressing the risk of cancer from exposure to radiation and projects the same average observed number of excess cancers per unit dose into future years.

ADR - Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to court-connected methods for handling disputes outside of the judicial process through mediation or other forms of assisted negotiation.

AEC - The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, predecessor of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Agent Orange (litigation) - Agent Orange is a chemical containing dioxin used as a defoliant during the Vietnam war. The Agent Orange litigation refers to litigation concerning claims for injuries to Vietnam veterans from exposure to that chemical. A federal court ordered that an estimated class of as many as 240,000 veterans, their families, or their survivors should benefit from a $180 million fund created when seven chemical companies, without admitting liability, agreed to establish the fund to settle lawsuits brought by the Vietnam veterans and their families.

ANI - The American Nuclear Insurers (ANI) is one of two insurance pools that provide the utility industry with the nuclear liability insurance under Price-Anderson. ANI, formerly known as the Nuclear Energy Liability Insurance Association, is composed of investor-owned stock insurance companies. See also MAERP.

Asbestos (litigation) - Asbestos litigation refers to litigation concerning damages to persons injured by the fibrous mineral used in many products because of its strength, flexibility, and resistance to fire, heat, and corrosion. By 1983, 24,000 persons had filed lawsuits and 200,000 additional lawsuits are estimated to be initiated in the next 30 years. Many claims are currently being settled through a trust established by a bankruptcy court as part of the reorganization of the Johns-Manville Corporation, a defendant in many of the asbestos claims.

BEIR Committee - The Committee on Biological Effects of ionizing Radiation (BEIR) is a committee of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. The committee reports advise the federal government on the health consequences of radiation exposures. The most recent report (BEIR V), published in January 1990, is titled the Health Effects of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation.

Bhopal (litigation) - Bhopal litigation refers to litigation brought in India and in the United States based on injuries to residents of Bhopal, India, caused by the release in December 1984 from an industrial plant to the air of over 40 tons of methyl isocyanate, an extremely toxic and irritating chemical used in the manufacture of pesticides. The official death toll is about 3,600 of whom 2,000 died in the immediate aftermath. Some 30,000 to 60,000 persons are considered seriously injured. In an Indian Supreme Court settlement, the plant owner agreed to pay $470 million to the Indian government to compensate victims. The settlement is under court review.

Chernobyl - On April 26,1986, there was an accident at Unit 4 of the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station in the Ukraine, Soviet Union. Substantial quantities of radioactive materials were released for 10 days. Thirty-one workers and emergency personnel exposed at the reactor site died within two months of the accident from trauma, burns, and radiation effects. Excessive exposure to radiation during fire fighting and rescue operations resulted in the hospitalization of more than 200 personnel who were onsite. No acute radiation sickness was found in the offsite population, but over 135,000 persons were evacuated from a 30-kilometer zone around the reactor because of high ambient radiation levels. Since it was by far the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, Chernobyl was an important subject of inquiry by the Commission.

Dalkon Shield (litigation) - The Dalkon Shield litigation refers to litigation based on injuries to women who used the Dalkon Shield contraceptive device. More than 195,000 persons have filed injury claims against the manufacturer. A trust fund of $2.4 billion has been established to pay claims as part of a bankruptcy reorganization plan for the manufacturer.

Dioxin - A toxic component of Agent Orange, among other substances.

DOE - The U.S. Department of Energy.

ENO - An extraordinary nuclear occurrence (ENO) is defined in the Price-Anderson Act as an offsite dispersal of nuclear materials in amounts causing radiation levels that the NRC determines to be substantial and that the NRC determines has resulted, or will probably result, in substantial damages to persons or property offsite. When NRC determines that a nuclear incident is an ENO, then the waiver-of-defenses provisions of Price-Anderson are activated resulting in an essentially "no-fault" liability scheme. NRC has established criteria in its regulations for use in its determination as to whether a nuclear incident is an ENO. See waivers of defenses.

Exxon Valdez (litigation) - Exxon Valdez litigation refers to litigation based on damages caused when the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska on March 24, 1989, and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound. By March 1990, more than 150 civil lawsuits were pending as a result of the spill. By the end of 1989, the cleanup had cost Exxon $1.9 billion.

FEMA - The Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gray - A unit of measure of absorbed dose of radiation, abbreviated Gy. 1Gy=100 rad. 1 Gy=1 joule absorbed energy per kilogram mass.

ICRP - The International Commission on Radiation Protection.

Ionizing radiation - Radiation sufficiently energetic to dislodge electrons from an atom. This produces a number of chemical changes that, in the case of living cells, can lead to cell death, mutations, or other harmful effects.

Latent injuries - The term used in the Price-Anderson Act to refer to disease or illness, principally cancer, caused by exposure to radiation as a result of a nuclear incident but delayed in manifestation for some years or decades.

LET - Linear energy transfer(LET) is the average amount of energy lost per unit length of path of the incident radiation. Low LET means radiation characteristic of light charged particles, such as electrons produced by x-rays and gamma rays, where the distance between ionizing events is large on the scale of a cellular nucleus. High LET means radiation characteristic of heavy charged particles, such as protons and alpha particles, where the distance between ionizing events is small on the scale of a cellular nucleus. See ionizing radiation.

MAERP - The Mutual Atomic Energy Reinsurance Pool (MAERP) is one of two nuclear insurance pools that provide the utility industry with the nuclear insurance capacity under Price-Anderson. MAERP is made up of policy holder owned mutual insurance companies. See also ANI.

Millirem - One-thousandth of a rem. See rem.

NAS - The National Academy of Sciences.

NCRP - The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement.

NIH - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a component of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

NRC - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear incident - An incident defined in the Price-Anderson Act as any occurrence, including an ENO, causing bodily injury, sickness, disease, death, loss of or damage to property, or loss of use of property, arising out of or resulting from the radioactive, toxic, explosive, or other hazardous properties of nuclear material.

Offsite - Area outside the boundaries of the nuclear reactor station as delineated in the nuclear liability insurance policies.

PC - The probability of causation (PC) is a number intended to attribute the fractional contribution of a previous exposure to radiation in high doses to the induction of a given cancer in a specific tissue. In the Commission's view, PC is currently the best available technique for this purpose.

Person-rem - A unit of population dose equivalent reached by multiplying the dose equivalent in rem by the population exposed. See rem.

Plume -As used in this report, the body of air transporting radioactivity after its release in an accident.

Price-Anderson Act - Provisions incorporated into Sections 11 and 170 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, that relate to ensuring that adequate funds Will be available to satisfy claims of members of the public for personal injury and property damage as a consequence of a nuclear accident. The Act also limits the liability of participants in nuclear energy.

Probability or Causation - See PC.

Rad - A unit of measure of absorbed dose of radiation. 1 rad=0.01 Gray I rad=100 erg per gram mass.

Relative risk model - This model is used for expressing the risk of cancer from exposure to radiation and projects into future years the currently observed percentage increase in cancer risk per unit dose.

Rem - A rad equivalent man (rem) is the unit of measure of radioactive dose equivalent. The dose equivalent in rem equals the absorbed dose in rad multiplied by certain modifying factors. 1 rem=0.01 sievert.

Retrospective premiums - As provided in the 1975 and 1988 amendments to the Price-Anderson Act, these premiums can be assessed by the nuclear insurance pools on each licensed nuclear power plant operator for the prorated share of damages in excess of the $200 million in primary insurance. The 1988 amendments provide that plant operators are responsible for maximum retrospective premium assessments (or deferred premiums) of $63 million per reactor, subject to inflation indexing and a 5 percent surcharge, but no more than $10 million per reactor, per year.

SBA - the Small Business Administration.

Shine - The dose received by a person standing on radioactively-contaminated ground, or by being close to structures that are radioactively contaminated, or from a plume of radioactivity passing overhead.

Sievert - A unit of measure of radiation dose equivalent. It is equal to dose in grays multiplied by certain modifying factors. I sievert=100 rem.

TMI - As used in this report, an accident on March 28,1979, at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island station near Middletown, PA. Following a loss of coolant and a partial meltdown of the fuel, contaminated coolant water was released from the containment building to the auxiliary building, resulting in the release of small quantities of radioactive xenon and iodine. The largest external dose offsite was estimated to be less than 100 millirem and the average dose was 1.5 millirem. There was no report of injury onsite or offsite from radiation. During the incident, the Governor advised all people within 10 miles of the plant to remain indoors and recommended that all pregnant women and preschool-age children within 5 miles of the plant evacuate. As of the Spring of 1990, the nuclear insurance pools had paid out about $56 million to cover direct payments for losses, a settlement agreement, and expenses by the pool. Since it was the worst nuclear power plant accident in U.S. history, TMI was an important subject for the Commission.

UNSCEAR - The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) publishes reports on sources and effects of ionizing radiation. The most recent report (UNSCEAR 1988) is on the Sources, Effects and Risks of Ionizing Radiation.

VA - United States Department of Veterans' Affairs, formerly the Veterans' Administration

Waivers of defenses - Pursuant to the 1966 amendments to the Price-Anderson Act, when the NRC determines that a nuclear incident was an ENO, claimants then need only show (1) personal injury or property damage, (2) monetary amount of loss, and (3) a causal link between the loss and the radioactive material released. Claimants would not need to establish the fault of any party to prevail on their claims. See ENO.

Chapter Four « Index » Appendix B