There was a good comment on this topic in the National Post, June 11 2001:
Nuclear liability fallout
The articles by Benjamin Zycher (Don't Want A Nuclear Reactor for a Neighbour? Then Move!) and Paul Gunter (The Technology No Private Sector Insurer will Cover, May 31) both miss the point on the Price-Anderson Act which limits the U.S. nuclear industry's liability for accidents. This act was a compromise designed to ensure prompt compensation for victims. It was recognized that the normal legal proceedings following a nuclear accident would involve extremely long delays and complex debates on who is ultimately responsible, and, consequently, compensation for those who really deserve it would be delayed indefinitely. Instead, the legislation specified that a victim only had to prove that he had suffered damages and the operator of the nuclear plant would have to pay. It removed the need to find the guilty party and to prove negligence. To compensate for this burden, the legislation capped the liability. There is nothing nefarious about this arrangement. To me, it appears quite reasonable and should probably be copied in other sectors that are beset with long litigation, no resolution for the victims, and monstrous legal fees.
François Lemay, PhD, director, International Safety Research, Ottawa
....and someone else wrote earlier, " the [US] feds have been collecting premiums for nearly 40 years without a payout. Pretty good business if you ask me."
also see http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/2210.html
21.6.3 Nuclear Accident Liability Limitations
The Price-Anderson Act amended the Atomic Energy Act to limit liability for
nuclear "incidents." 42 U.S.C. sec. 2210.
Originally, the liability limitation was set at US$560 million, but since 1988, the limitation has
increased and is linked to a retroactive premium paid by operating nuclear
facilities. The issue of when to impose liability for activities relating to
the shipping, transport, use, and disposal of nuclear materials is still
within the authority of state common law. .............