When the Senate reconvenes on January 23, their agenda will include acting on the Price Anderson Act, which has passed by voice vote in the House. Now is the time to call your Senator and urge defeat of S-1766, the Energy Policy Act of 2002.

In the mid-1950s, under the Eisenhower administration, there was growing and vocal opposition to continued research, development and testing of nuclear (atomic) weapons. In order to split the anti-nuclear protest movement in two, nuclear power vs. nuclear weapons (they were largely successful), pacify public anxiety and carry on the Cold War, the “peaceful atom” was conceived – nuclear power.

But there was a catch. No insurance company would come forward to cover this obviously hazardous and biologically harmful technology. Utilities hesitated.

The administration used the carrot and the stick to persuade them: 1. Do it or we’ll nationalize electricity production and build the reactors. 2. Then, the Price Anderson Act was passed with the encouragement of General Electric, reactor builder, which put a cap on liability, and the bulk of what was to be covered would be paid by the taxpayers.

The act was supposed to last only 10 years until the nuclear industry could stand on its own feet, but that didn’t happen. One thousand plants were expected to be built by the year 2000. Public opposition and the complexity and cost of the technology kept the number to about 103, despite government-subsidized research and development and waste “management.” We have been paying for this and insurance ever since.

The Price Anderson Act has been renewed periodically. If you don’t want this to continue, act now. It’s especially important because there is a new subsidized generation of nukes on the drawing board, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactors, smaller and without containments to protect them from sabotage, and because of a new law that limits public participation in decision-making, they can be clustered on older nuclear sites, in cities, anywhere. If we stop Price Anderson now, they may not be covered by insurance and may not be built at all.

The nuclear industry is lobbying hard for this extended indemnification. Tell your legislators that you want S-1766 voted down and call for repeal of the Price Anderson Act. No more nukes, power or weapons. Phone the Federal Information Center at 1-800-688-9889 for Senators’ 800 numbers and e-mail addresses.

The authors are coordinators of Don’t Waste Connecticut. Contact them at upthesun@cshore.com.