Statement on Signing the Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988

 

August 20, 1988

 

I have today signed into law H.R. 1414, legislation that extends for 15 years the Price-Anderson Act, the law that protects the public in the event of a nuclear accident and that makes feasible commercial nuclear power generation. This new legislation preserves the public's right to speedy compensation in the event of a nuclear accident and expands the level of protection to over 7 billion dollars.

 

I sign this legislation in the midst of a summer that has brought record temperatures to much of our country. As a consequence, many of our utilities find themselves near the limits of their power-generating capacity.

 

The current limits to our electrical generating capacity are already being felt: clocks losing time because of voltage reductions, temporary losses of power at moments of peak demand, and the necessity of employing backup generators at hospitals and like facilities that have this capacity to meet emergency needs.

 

The implication of this situation is clear: Our Nation must move forward into a new era of safe, economical, and clean nuclear power. Nuclear power, like our other domestic energy sources, is not subject to foreign supply interruptions and does not add to our balance-of-payments deficit. Nearly 100,000 megawatts of electricity are provided by nuclear power each year, enough to meet approximately 20 percent of the country's electricity demand. To replace this energy with electricity produced by oil would require two million barrels of oil per day, pump 350 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, and, if the demand is not met from domestic reserves, worsen our trade deficit by more than 1 billion dollars per month to purchase foreign oil.

 

Enactment of an extension of Price-Anderson is the latest in our steps to assure a reliable, expanding supply of nuclear power for the Nation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is moving forward to improve the efficiency of its licensing process while still assuring that any safety questions are fully resolved before major new power plants are constructed. We have worked with the Congress to enact legislation that will put in place safe, environmentally sound disposal facilities for the low-level and high-level wastes that are the product of nuclear power plants. Private industry is developing improved nuclear reactor technologies that promise to be simpler, safer, and more economical. These steps are supplemented with this extension of Price-Anderson protections to assure a sound basis for operating these new reactors.

 

In signing H.R. 1414, I note the presence of one provision that warrants careful construction in order to avoid constitutional problems. Accordingly, I am stating my interpretation of that provision to make certain that the Act is implemented in a constitutional manner.

 

Under the Constitution the President enjoys plenary and exclusive authority to determine whether and when he should propose legislation to the Congress. Section 7 of H.R. 1414, however, might appear to require the President to submit legislation to the Congress under certain circumstances. In order to avoid constitutional difficulties, I will construe section 7 as recommendatory rather than obligatory.

 

Signing into law this extension of Price-Anderson protection for the public in 1988 is a reflection of the continuing commitment of this Administration and of the Congress to secure the public's right to a safe and economically secure future. To keep America strong, nuclear energy truly must realize its full potential as a technology. I am pleased to take this step to assure that goal.

 

Ronald Reagan

 

The White House,

 

August 20, 1988.

 

Note: H.R. 1414, approved August 20, was assigned Public Law No. 100 - 408. The statement was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 22.