A Nuclear Threat: Why the Price-Anderson Act Must Be Amended Following Cook v. Rockwell

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Daniel Kolomitz

Disasters such as Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl have raised public awareness of the dangers of nuclear energy. However, despite this risk, nuclear energy supplies twenty percent of the electricity in the United States. Much of this development is due to the Price-Anderson Act (“PAA”). If a nuclear plant exposes a citizen to dangerous radiation that makes the citizen ill or damages his property, the PAA assures that a federal forum will be available to hear the victim’s claim, provides government funds to assure the victim’s compensation, and gives indemnification to the nuclear operator so that it is not exposed to crushing liability. The PAA only applies to “nuclear incidents”: specific types of damages caused by nuclear sources. If any lawsuit alleges that a nuclear incident occurred, it can immediately be removed to federal court. However, the lower courts are split on whether the PAA completely preempts state law actions, including those that do not rise to the level of a nuclear incident under the statute.

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