Good morning. Mr. Jaczko and Mr. Lyons, thank you for being here today.
Mr. Chairman, you and I both take our oversight responsibilities of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission very seriously. Together, we have held six oversight hearings of the NRC starting in 1998 when you were chairman of the Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee that I now chair.
An important part of this oversight involves close scrutiny of those individuals that are nominated by the president to lead the Commission.
That is why I signed a letter along with 14 of my colleagues in November 2004 urging Majority Leader Frist to not confirm the Republican or Democrat nominees to the Commission without a hearing.
Due to Senator Reid’s insistence that many other nominees not be confirmed by the Senate until you – Mr. Jaczko – be placed on the Commission, President Bush recess appointed both of you. I strongly believe that circumventing this Committee and the Senate is the wrong way to do things.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your strong leadership in holding this hearing today. Although the nominees are both already serving on the Commission, I welcome the opportunity to ask them some important questions on the record.
Mr. Jaczko, I signed the letter not only because of process concerns but also because of significant questions about your impartiality. As a senior policy advisor to Senator Reid, you worked for several years against important issues that will be or are before the Commission – specifically the licensing of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.
As the Chairman mentioned in his opening statement, I too am pleased with reports that you have been fair and open thus far as a Commissioner. However, I have been in this business long enough to understand that ‘perception is often reality’. I look forward to talking with you further about how you will overcome these negative perceptions. Additionally, I understand that you have agreed to recuse yourself from NRC action on Yucca Mountain for one year, and I would like to talk to you about the details of that recusal today.
Mr. Lyons, your nomination and confirmation occurred very quickly after the other pending nominee withdrew his name. I am concerned that the speed at which you went through this process did not allow enough time for you to be fully vetted. I thank you for coming in to meet with me recently and look forward to asking you additional questions today.
With all of that being said, I want to look forward. I thank you both and your families for your willingness to serve. The NRC plays a critical role in the welfare of the American public and their number one concern must be safety.
The NRC currently has a very full plate, including:
· Considering license renewals, applications for new plants and power up-rates at existing plants, and the licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository;
· Ensuring public confidence in nuclear power and that nothing like the Davis-Besse incident ever occurs again; and
· Evaluating and strengthening security at the nation’s nuclear plants.
I want to make sure that the NRC has the budget and personnel to get the job done well in all of these areas. I recently met with Chairman Diaz who told me that increases are needed for fiscal year 2006, and I want to hear both of your thoughts on what the Commission needs as well.
While the NRC will be busy, this Committee and my Subcommittee will also be very busy over the next two months on nuclear issues. First, Chairman Inhofe and I introduced three pieces of legislation today on reauthorization of the Price Anderson nuclear insurance program, nuclear security, and reauthorization of the fees that make up a large part of NRC’s budget. These bills have all been considered by the Committee in the past, and I hope to get them reported out of the Committee before June.
Second, I plan to hold the annual NRC oversight hearing when we return from the recess at the end of this month. Third, in May, I am working with Chairman Inhofe to hold a classified hearing on nuclear security.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for your strong leadership and for holding this important hearing. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today.