Financial Consequences of a Nuclear Power Plant Accident

RCED-86-193BR: Published: Jul 16, 1986. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the dollar consequences of off-site damages to persons and property that might result from a catastrophic nuclear power plant accident; and (2) the limit that Congress should set on the liability for accident damages.

GAO found that: (1) the financial consequences of a catastrophic accident could range up to $15 billion, while the financial consequences of a severe accident could range up to $220 million; (2) plant size, population density, and land use patterns determine where each plant falls within the range of consequences; (3) property damages represent 76 to 90 percent of the total potential consequences; and (4) the consequences of a catastrophic accident under severe weather conditions could be up to approximately 10 times greater than under average conditions. Under the Price-Anderson Act, the existing liability limit is $665 million and would cover only 4 percent of the plants. The Senate has proposed legislation that would increase this limit to $2.5 billion, which would cover 64 percent of the plants, and the House has proposed a limit of $6.5 billion, which would cover 95 percent. However, if severe weather conditions are considered in estimating the financial consequences, even these limits might not cover the majority of the plants.

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