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The US Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking public comment on the need to continue or modify the portion of the Price-Anderson Act that it administers, as it prepares a report to Congress. The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 2005 (codified at 42 USC 2210(p)) requires DOE to submit this report to Congress by the end of December of this year. The deadline to submit comments is August 25, 2021.

The Price-Anderson Act is authorized through 2025 and an extension would require Congressional reauthorization. Congress has repeatedly reauthorized the financial protection provisions of Price-Anderson since it was first enacted in 1957. As currently enacted, the DOE provides Price-Anderson indemnification to all contractors engaged in activities that involve the risk of a “nuclear incident.” The amount of indemnification is a statutory amount adjusted for inflation (approximately $13.7 billion now).

In its request, the DOE provided a “non-exhaustive list” of 25 questions to “spur consideration” of the operation and effect of Price-Anderson. Broadly, the DOE is seeking input on the need to continue the Price-Anderson Act in its current form or whether it should be modified. For example, the DOE asks whether Price-Anderson should be limited to specific activities, certain DOE contractors (e.g., prime contractors vs. subcontractors), and whether the amount of indemnity should be increased or decreased, among other questions. The DOE also asks commenters to address how these or other modifications to Price-Anderson would affect the DOE’s ability to perform its various missions and whether Price-Anderson must be modified to allow the United States to be a party to various international nuclear liability treaties. Commenters are not limited to the questions posed by DOE, but should address their comments to specific DOE activities under the Act.

The NRC administers its own Price-Anderson program for NRC licensees which is not part of DOE’s request for comments. The NRC also is required to submit a report to Congress by the end of this year, and we expect the NRC to issue its own request for public comments in the coming weeks.