U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   02/13/2003
Sen. James M. Inhofe, of Oklahoma
Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Welcome to Chairman Meserve and all of the Commissioners. Commissioner Diaz -- I understand your mother will be having surgery tomorrow and you may have to leave this hearing early to catch your flight. I wish my very best to you and her and I hope she enjoys a speedy recovery.

I also want to take a moment to publicly thank Chairman Meserve as this may be the last time we see him before this committee. I can think of no higher compliment than to say you are leaving the NRC a more effective and efficient agency than when you first assumed your position as chairman. Job well done, and we all wish you well.

I have always been an advocate of nuclear power. Nuclear power has proven to be a safe, reliable and clean source of energy. Over the next 15 years, our energy demands will increase by nearly 30%. If we are to meet the energy demands of the future, and we are serious about reducing utility emissions, then we should get serious about the zero emissions energy production that nuclear power provides. Nuclear facilities are more efficient today than ever before -- and we are exploring new, even better technologies. We should be excited about the future of nuclear energy. I am pleased with NRC’s commitment to both license renewal and new reactor licensing, as they are key to the continued success of this clean, efficient energy. And this committee must do its part, and we should start by reauthorizing Price-Anderson.

In 1998, as chairman of this subcommittee, I began a series of oversight hearings of the NRC. The hearing I held in 1998 was the first held by this committee in years. Fortunately, every year since that time we have had the Commission appear before us. I expect that rigorous oversight of the NRC to continue.

In fact, the committee will hold another nuclear hearing in the near future that will focus on the security of our nuclear energy infrastructure. In this time of the constant threat posed by those who wish to do harm to our nation and freedom loving people, protecting our nation’s commercial nuclear infrastructure, and more importantly, those who live near these facilities, is paramount.

When I began conducting oversight of the NRC, I did so with the goal of changing the bureaucratic atmosphere that had infected the NRC. By 1998, the NRC had become an agency of process, not results. It was neither efficient nor effective. If the agency was to improve it had to employ a more results-oriented approach - one that was risk-based and science-based, not one mired in unnecessary process and paperwork. I am pleased that in the last five years, we have seen tremendous strides and those who work for the NRC should be proud. This approach has made the NRC a lean and more effective regulatory agency.

But while I am pleased with the progress, many challenges remain. Today, this committee will be probing for answers, not only regarding the day-to-day activities of the Commission, but also more pointed concerns that have recently come to light. Davis-Bessie in Ohio is one such situation where a number of questions have arisen. Those questions need to be answered and public confidence restored. I applaud Senator Voinovich for what he has already done. For some time now he has been asking the tough questions and demanding answers of all involved. He has used his leadership position both forcefully and responsibly. The people of Ohio are fortunate to have such a good person as their Senator.

As the chairman of the full committee, you can count on support and my continued attention to the NRC and its mission. Thank you.