Inadequate Accident Insurance
U.S. nuclear facilities privatize profit but socialize risk – whether that’s the risk of leakage or a nuclear accident.
They operate under a liability shield called the Price-Anderson Act, which has been extended repeatedly and will probably be renewed well before it expires at the end of 2025. The legislation was first passed in 1957 because private utilities and banks – knowing they couldn’t afford the risk of accident – were unwilling to finance, build, or operate nuclear plants. Price-Anderson continues since the industry still can’t afford, on its own, the risk of a catastrophic accident.
Price-Anderson puts a cap – currently $450 million – on the liability insurance nuclear power plant operators must have, clearly a subsidy since no one believes that would even begin to cover the cost of a serious accident. And it allows the plant owners to be the first in line to be covered by the insurance. If damages exceed $450 million, the law mandates that every other nuclear plant owner in the U.S. would have to chip in, up to $121.3 million per reactor. However, the law is not clear about consequences if those companies can’t – or won’t – pony up.
Total liability for a nuclear incident is capped at $13 billion. Congress would have to deal with anything exceeding that cap.
There is no private insurance for a nuclear accident available, with the exception of the $450 million policies nuclear plant operators must buy.
Japan has spent an estimated $7 billion annually since the March 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe. There is no financial end in sight for the long-term costs from the triple reactor meltdown. Current estimates are running as low as $200 billion and up to $1 trillion.
After the Chernobyl 1986 accident, a huge swath of Ukraine is still uninhabitable and it’s obvious that landowners, business owners, homeowners, farmers, educational systems, hospitals, and others in the evacuation zone lost everything. The costs of that accident have been estimated at a minimum of $358 billion, not counting long-term losses suffered by neighboring nations extending as far as western Europe and the United Kingdom due to radioactive fallout.