The insurance law, which expires in August 2002, allows nuclear companies to remain exempt from unlimited liability for accidents.

The Energy Committee hearing coincided with Senator James Jeffords’ announcement that he was leaving the Republicans to become an Independent. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham spoke about the recently announced energy plan, but the hearing was cut short after questions on his testimony.

The 106 reactors participating in the Act will continue to be protected even if the law expired. However, a provision to indemnify Department of Energy contractors would no longer be valid, should the law not be extended.