Proposed Nuclear Insurance and Three Mile Island Cleanup Assistance Legislation

EMD-82-B1: Published: Oct 14, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 1981.

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GAO was requested to comment on S. 1226, a bill which provides for supplemental insurance to cover damages to nuclear powerplants and includes provisions for certain remedial action at the Three Mile Island facility. The comments were based principally on the results of an assessment of the current levels of property damage insurance coverage for nuclear powerplants and the need to provide funding to complete the cleanup of the damaged reactor at Three Mile Island.

GAO believes that the supplemental property damage insurance issue can best be handled by the private sector, or at least operated through its institutional framework. However, this would require that a separate mechanism be developed by which the cleanup contribution could be collected and transmitted to the General Public Utilities Corporation. GAO did not explore the viability of possible alternative solutions, but believes that this should be done before final action is taken on the bill. Although GAO believes that congressional approval at this time would be premature and that reliance on the private sector for providing both additional insurance coverage and cleanup funding is preferable to federal government involvement, GAO recognizes the possibility of congressional action being required to resolve the dilemma at Three Mile Island. GAO suggested that, in lieu of a government corporation being established to manage the insurance and cleanup effort, the resources of an existing federal agency be used to perform these functions. The relatively short-term nature of the proposed corporation would appear to favor this approach. If the use of an existing agency is not acceptable and a corporation is established, then GAO suggests that the legislation place the corporation under the purview of the Government Corporation Control Act. This would ensure proper oversight of the corporation's activities.

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