Good Morning, today we are going hear from two Commissioners recently appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Greg Jaczko (YATSKO) and Pete Lyons. Both Commissioners are Senate veterans. Commissioner Jaczko served on Senator Reid’s staff and prior to that worked for this Committee. Commissioner Lyons is a former staffer for Senator Domenici and the Senate Energy Committee. Welcome to both of you. Commissioner Jaczko - welcome back to EPW.
Both Commissioners were recess-appointed by the President in January and their appointments will not expire for two years. It’s no secret that the process that led to the recess appointments was one in which I was highly critical. Over the last few years two Admirals were nominated to the NRC and both withdrew their names out of frustration with that process. Numerous other nominees were perpetually held up on the Senate floor. This was the result of the controversy over the nomination of Commissioner Jaczko and Senator Reid’s strong desire to get him on the Commission. There had been a number of concerns raised with regard to Commissioner Jaczko by those who want to see the success of nuclear power continue to grow in the future. His extensive work in opposition to licensing of Yucca Mountain is at the heart of much of that concern.
I understand that the Commissioner has recused himself from NRC action on Yucca Mountain for one year – I look forward to discussing both the parameters and timing of the that recusal today.
I am not holding this hearing to rehash the history of the last two years. While Commissioner Jaczko’s past work on nuclear matter has caused concern, I have been pleased to hear reports that in his tenure thus far as Commissioner, he has conducted himself in a manner that is both fair and open. It is my hope that this will continue. Today’s hearing is important because these Commissioners have not had the opportunity to share their views with this Committee on nuclear power and what they see as the role of the NRC in regulating nuclear power. And as they know, this Committee has sole jurisdiction in the Senate over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission . It is important that we fully understand what is guiding you, and it is equally important that you understand what we hope to see out of the NRC.
I have spent a good deal of time and energy over the past decade working hard to reform the way NRC does business. And that effort has been very successful. I want to be certain that not only will that progress not be reversed, but that the NRC will continue to improve.
In 1998, as chairman of the nuclear 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. Senator Voinovich has continued this rigorous oversight as the current chairman of that subcommittee.
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 seven 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.
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.
The Committee will be active this year on legislation pertaining to the NRC. Just this week three bills were introduce by Senator Voinovich and myself dealing with nuclear power: reauthorization of Price Anderson; a nuclear security bill; and reauthorization of a fees bill that this committee passed by unanimous consent almost 5 years ago. Staff is already in discussions with the Minority on these bills, and I anticipate an NRC oversight hearing in the near future as well a classified hearing on nuclear security. It is my hope to have these bills out of committee in the very near future.
I want to thank the Commissioners for being here today and I look forward to their testimony.