O P E N I N G S T A T E M E N T
Senator George Voinovich
January 23, 2002
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today=s hearing on the reauthorization of the Price Anderson legislation.
As you know, I have introduced the Bill to reauthorize the Price Anderson Act, S. 1360. My Bill is cosponsored by Senator Smith and Senator Inhofe, the ranking members of both the Full and Subcommittee and I appreciate their support on my legislation.
Mr. Chairman, as you know this law was first passed in 1957 and has been renewed three times since. The current version expires on August 1st of this year. Mr. Chairman, this is important legislation which provides the insurance program for commercial nuclear power plants and Department of Energy facilities.
I am pleased that the House of Representatives passed their version of the Bill on November 27th last year, and I hope that this Committee and the Senate can move quickly to reauthorize this program early this year. This is the type of must-pass legislation that keeps the trains of government running on time.
I think it is important to note that during the previous Administration, both the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued reports to Congress recommending the reauthorization of the law.
The Reports also called for a doubling of the annual premium paid by the nuclear reactors from $10 million to $20 million. This recommendation was made prior to the relicensing process and at that time the NRC projected that up to half of our nuclear reactor fleet would retire instead of being relicensed. However, thanks to the regulatory improvements made to the process, largely due to the oversight of this Subcommittee, the NRC believes that most of our nuclear reactors will in fact be relicensed. Therefore, the NRC issued a statement last year revising their projections and recommending that the annual premium not be increased, and our legislation follows their recommendations.
Mr. Chairman, currently nuclear energy provides approximately 20% of our energy needs while fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas provide the bulk of the remainder. Coal and nuclear power have been inappropriately demonized over the last few years but the fact of the matter is both are efficient and cost-effective sources of energy, and like it or not we are going to be dependent upon them for the foreseeable future.
Like many of my colleagues, I support investing in renewable energy. As a matter of fact, the Murkowski energy bill, which I am a co-sponsor, the first title is energy conservation, and the second is renewable energy. We provide over $5 Billion for energy efficiency activities and $1.3 Billion for renewable fuels; nevertheless we need to understand that wind and solar currently provide less than 1/10 of 1% of our energy needs. Even with significant investment these sources would not come close to meeting our growing energy demand, or replace our current energy sources.
It is extremely important that we maintain and expand nuclear power if we are to meet current and future energy needs. This legislation is fundamental to that happening as well as to providing insurance for the Department of Energy facilities.
Mr. Chairman, again I appreciate you holding this important hearing. I realize you have issues regarding the status of Yucca Mountain but I appreciate your ability to separate the renewal of this relatively non-controversial program from the larger issue of waste storage. This program is important to the thousands of government contractors who work for DOE and to our nation=s nuclear reactors. Thank you.