I first want to thank Chairman Voinovich for holding this oversight hearing and for his continued commitment to strong oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This is the ninth in a series of oversight hearings that began in 1997 when I was chairman of this Subcommittee. Prior to that first hearing, there had not been an NRC oversight hearing in more than a decade.
I want to commend the NRC for making substantial progress over the past year towards safely advancing the future use of nuclear power. As you all know, the initial groundwork was successfully laid through the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This Act provided critical provisions such as B NRC reforms, security, liability insurance, and human capital B combined with the energy bill's sections on risk insurance, production tax credits, and loan guarantees provide the foundation for the construction of new nuclear plants.
In addition to successfully implementing these new provisions, we must also address other key issues pertinent to building new nuclear facilities.
I am encouraged by the expected increase in combined construction and operation license applications (COLs) over the next four years. Only one year ago, the NRC was planning to review one Combined License Application (COL) while preparing for three COLs in FY 07. Today, that number has been revised upwards to two COLs while preparing for nine COLs in FY 07.
I commend the NRC for being proactive in meeting this new increase in workload by implementing a design centered approach which will further help to streamline the review process of like designs. However Mr. Chairman, I must add that I remain wary of the challenging task ahead of the NRC in reviewing licensing applications. I would like to see more proactive initiatives by the Commission in promoting efficient processes such as the design centered approach instead of requesting additional yearly funding increases to meet increase workloads.
I was pleased to hear the Chairman state from the last hearing in March that the final rule for 10 CFR 52 is expected by the Commission from the staff in October 2006. I sincerely hope that the Commission will place a very high priority on the expeditious review of this rule as regulatory certainty is premium to the future of the nuclear industry.
As per my comments from the last hearing, I would like to continue to caution the NRC about the soon to be implemented safety culture related enhancements. I intend to fully monitor the implementation of the safety culture approach to evaluate licensee actions to address identified performance issues. We must not let this program turn into a bean counting exercise.
I would especially like to thank Chairman Diaz for his service to the NRC and our country. Mr. Chairman, without your help, support, and leadership at the NRC, I don't think we would be able to even discuss building new nuclear reactors. Thank you for everything that you have done and I wish you well in your retirement.
In conclusion I would like to thank everyone for attending this very important oversight hearing. The NRC and the industry must keep safety as the center of all that they do, and I will continue to support Chairman Voinovich in making sure that remains the case.