Opening Statement of Senator Tom Carper
Oversight Hearing: NRC's Implementation of Recommendations for Enhancing Nuclear Reactor Safety in the 21st Century"
Let me begin by welcoming back the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Commissioners to our Committee. I appreciate you taking the time to be before us today. In particular, I want to welcome Chairman Macfarlane who was sworn into office last July. This is her first appearance before this committee as chairman of the NRC. Welcome.
Currently, our country has 104 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 states, with an additional five that are under construction and that will come online, hopefully, within the next several years. Collectively, these nuclear power plants generate approximately 20 percent of our nation's total electric consumption.
The energy from these nuclear power plants has helped curb our nation's reliance on dirty fossil fuels and has helped reduce our air pollution that damages health and causes global warming. Despite the benefits of nuclear power, we have seen from the crisis at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi facility the damage that nuclear power can cause if not properly regulated.
Safety must always be our top priority when it comes to nuclear energy. That is why since the Fukushima accident – and before – this Committee has exercised its oversight authority repeatedly to ensure that our nation's nuclear power plants are prepared for the worst. We want to make sure that our nuclear power plants can respond effectively in any crisis to protect the American public.
I was reassured when the NRC concluded that an accident like Fukushima is unlikely to happen in the United States and that our nuclear fleet poses no imminent risk to public safety. This is due in part to the due diligence of the NRC to public safety. But as my colleagues have heard me say over and over, if it is not perfect, make it better.
Since our hearing last March, the NRC has required the implementation of several safety actions at our nuclear power plants in light of the lessons learned from Fukushima. The NRC has also required our nuclear power plants to investigate and report back ways we can further enhance flood and earthquake protections at our 104 reactors. Today, I look forward to hearing an update from the NRC Commissioners regarding their progress.
I sincerely hope the Commission will continue to talk to stakeholders and get public reaction – from all sides of these issues – as the recommendations are being implemented. However, I will be very disappointed if by the second anniversary of the Fukushima accident – which will be March 11, 2013 – our nuclear power plants are not where they are supposed to be according to the schedule the Commission has laid out.
As I continue to support the pursuit of all clean energy, my top priority for our domestic nuclear power industry remains public safety. We all know we can do better, and the NRC is moving forward to ensure that the U.S. nuclear industry continues to improve its safety and preparedness efforts.