Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Nuclear Insurance Policy

Nuke insurance policy renewal to be addressed by House committee The Energy Department's role in federal nuclear insurance policy will be the topic of a House Energy and Commerce Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee hearing Thursday. The hearing, rescheduled from Aug. 3, stems from a similar one on the same subject held earlier this summer.

The Price-Anderson Act is set to expire in August 2002 and several pieces of energy legislation in both the House and Senate contain provisions to renew it. The act caps off liability responsibility for nuclear reactors at $9 billion in the event of a nuclear accident. The law also indemnifies DOE contractors from liability for working on DOE nuclear projects, making the department responsible for providing insurance for contractors in the event of a nuclear accident. Although Subcommittee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) said he does support the act's renewal, the reauthorization was not part of the committee's portion of the House's energy bill (H.R. 4) passed right before the August recess.

The subcommittee examined the issue in June. Tim Peckinpaugh, who represents American Nuclear Insurers, said he thinks the upcoming hearing will most likely focus on the DOE-contractor elements of the act, since details of that issue were not talked about in depth at the prior hearing (see the 6/28 Environment and Energy Daily). Peckinpaugh explained that private insurance companies will not offer coverage to contractors working at DOE sites since the risk is usually hard to determine at such old facilities. He also said the common belief is that the contractors did not create the contamination problems at sites such as the Hanford in Washington or at Rocky Flats in Colorado, so DOE should be held responsible.

Schedule: The hearing is set to take place at 2 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6 in 2322 Rayburn.

Witness:Francis Blake, deputy Energy secretary, is scheduled to testify.