Senator Bob Smith
Ranking Member, Environment & Public Works Committee
January 23, 2002
Good Morning and thank you all for coming here today for this hearing on the reauthorization of Price-Anderson. As you all know, Price-Anderson first became law in 1957 in order to provide immediate compensation in the event of a nuclear accident.
After being reauthorized three times, the Act is set to expire this August. I have joined Senators Voinovich, Inhofe and Crapo in introducing a bill that will again, reauthorize the statute.
I am a strong supporter of Price-Anderson because I believe that it is the best mechanism for providing the highest level of compensation in the shortest period of time; without having to put victims through an arduous and protracted legal process.
On top of all of that, it is the best deal for the tax payer.
With Price-Anderson B if there were a major nuclear accident up to $9.5 billion, under current law, would be provided in compensation to the victims, not by the government, but by private insurers and the nuclear industry--without having a lengthy judicial process to determine liability or culpability.
The law requires the insured and the insurers to waive most standard legal defenses B fault does not need to be established.
Absent Price Anderson, victims would have to rely on the tort system B and damages would effectively be limited by the assets of a company. Bottom line is that there would be less money available and it would take years for the dollars to work their way through the courts and into the hands of those who need immediate assistance.
And when you do finally get out of the courts - check your pockets, because the lawyers will have gotten their share and probably a good chunk of your share. In all probability, while we are waiting for the courts to act, it is likely that the taxpayer, via Congress, would already have stepped in and provided whatever financial assistance was needed B the events of September 11, showed how quickly Congress can act in such a disaster situation.
To put the $9.5 billion into historical perspective:
C In the nearly 45 years of Price-Anderson, the most widely known payout under the law was with Three Mile Island - certainly a major event -
C That pay-out totaled $70 million B even when adjusted for inflation, it barely makes a dent in what funds are available
Certainly Price-Anderson is a good deal, both for the taxpayers and for anyone seeking damages.
I understand that there are those who simply do not like nuclear energy and will see the Price-Anderson debate as a means stop nuclear power. I do respect the rights and integrity of those who hold this view.
But, I believe that there are enormous benefits to nuclear power B the majority of energy generated in New Hampshire comes from nuclear.
Seabrook has proven to be a safe, reliable source of power - on top of that, it is emissions free.
I have spent the better part of two years working with a number of stakeholders to come up with a bipartisan plan for reducing our utility emissions without compromising our long-term energy security.
Nuclear power allows us to safely generate enormous amounts of energy at low cost and with zero emissions B it must be a part of any reasonable energy plan.
And that means that we should not be discouraging the development of new, safe nuclear technologies.
If we do not reauthorize Price-Anderson, we effectively kill those promising technologies that are the next generation of emissions-free power production.
As we do look at reauthorization, there are a number of questions that should be debated. For instance, looking forward, how do we treat new modular technologies that are not that far down the road? Should we adjust insurance coverage and the retrospective premiums?
Our witnesses have raised a number of questions, concerns and ideas as we look toward reauthorization B and I look forward to the discussion of those ideas this morning.
I want to thank you again for coming here today and I do look forward to hearing your testimony.