''For the foreseeable future, America's energy policies will remain wedged between Iraq and an irradiated place. But while soldiers might be asked to die protecting fuel supplies beneath the feet of despots, it's civilians who'll suffer the immediate death or homelessness, lingering cancers, and future birth defects if terrorists smash into any of our 103 active nuclear reactors.
This scenario feels very real - and it's very costly. Indeed, the September 11 hijackers used the Hudson River as a path to New York City, flying over the Indian Point nuclear power plant.
Another significant government boost comes through insurance. The Price-Anderson Act, enacted in 1957 and now up for renewal, limits the industry's financial liability for accidents, either in a reactor or research facility, in storage, or in transit. The House has already passed it, and the Senate is due to pick it up in 2002.
Under Price-Anderson, utilities carry the maximum private insurance of 0 million per reactor. If damage exceeds that coverage, other industry players chip in up to .9 million for each reactor they run. If those hundreds of millions aren't enough, it's up to you. As of August 1998, catastrophe scenarios predicted taxpayers would have to pony up .43 billion as the reinsurer—the insurer of insurance companies. And that's just the start of it.
"Over time, 125,000 people are expected to die or get cancer from the Chernobyl accident, as compared with 3500 from the September 11 attacks," says Dr. Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute, a trade association. "So if September 11 cost billion, imagine that amplified by a factor of at least 35. The costs that would come out of a nuclear event or successful terrorist attack far exceed the claims-paying ability of all insurance companies in the world combined."''
- Erik Baard, Village Voice
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