Congress votes on Price-Anderson Act extension

March 22, 2024, 1:39PMNuclear News

A minibus appropriations bill—the second produced this month by Congress—emerged from conference negotiations yesterday with language that would extend the Price-Anderson Act—legislation first enacted in 1954 that makes it possible for nuclear power producers to seek insurance from the private marketplace. Today the House of Representatives voted 286–134 to approve the minibus package of six fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills, and the Senate is expected to vote today, too. By extending the Price-Anderson Act—now set to expire in 2025—Congress can support the current U.S. power reactor fleet and pave the way for new reactor deployments.

A “laddered” approach to 2024 full-year appropriations agreed to in continuing resolutions divided the 2024 appropriations bills into groups with different expiration dates. The six bills included in the minibus up for vote today are also set to expire today, March 22. They are Defense; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education; Legislative Branch; and State Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

More decades, more coverage: If the appropriations legislation before Congress today is passed, Section 170 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954—more commonly known as the Price-Anderson Act—would be extended by four decades, from the end of 2025 to the end of 2065. The primary insurance coverage for each licensed nuclear plant site would remain tied to inflation, set and periodically updated by NRC, while coverage for DOE liability for incidents occurring outside the United States and involving DOE contractors would increase from $500 million to $2 billion.



“Necessary certainty”: An extension for the Price Anderson Act was not included in the first minibus appropriations bill issued in early March. Sens. Tom Carper (D., Del.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.)—chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW)—celebrated its inclusion in the second minibus by the Senate and House Appropriations Committees in a press release on March 21.

“For more than six decades, the Price-Anderson Act has provided the necessary certainty to enable the expansion of carbon-free nuclear energy, which now provides about 20 percent of America’s electricity and nearly half of America’s clean energy. The extension of the Price-Anderson Act in the minibus sends a clear message that we are committed to the advancement of this safe and reliable power source, but this is only the first step,” the senators declared. “We must send bipartisan legislation to boost the development and deployment of new nuclear technologies to the President’s desk this year, and we are united in our commitment to doing so.”

Sens. Carper and Capito introduced the ADVANCE (Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy) Act in March 2023, which also includes language to extend the Price-Anderson Act, and it was passed by the Senate in July 2023. The ADVANCE Act called for a 20-year extension of the Price-Anderson Act, through 2045.

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