Nuclear Accident in U.S. Would Cost Taxpayers a Fortune

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (photo: Daniel Case)
Nearly half a trillion dollars. That’s how much a nuclear accident, similar to what’s occurring in Japan, could cost the United States if it happens here, with most of the expense being borne by taxpayers.
A 2009 study by two university professors, Geoffrey Heal of Columbia and Howard Kunreuther if the University of Pennsylvania, calculated that a nuclear power plant meltdown would cause $384 billion in damages, and produce up to another $100 billion in economic costs. Their calculations were based on an accident taking place at the Indian Point nuclear-power station located 25 miles north of New York City. The death toll of such an accident was estimated to be 64,000 people.
Thanks to the Price-Anderson Act, first passed in 1957, federal law limits the liability of individual power companies to $375 million, and an industry liability pool would be limited to paying $12.6 billion, leaving taxpayers to cover the remainder of any nuclear accident expense.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Environment & Energy: Catastrophic Liabilities (by Geoffrey Heal and Howard Kunreuther, University of Pennsylvania) (pdf)


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