Statement of Senator Tom Carper
Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety
Oversight Hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
April 25, 2007
Welcome, I appreciate the Chairman and several of the Commissioners effort to be with us today.
Before we begin, I want to acknowledge Commissioner Merrifield. While I intend to hold several more oversight hearings this Congress, this may be the last opportunity Commissioner Merrifield has to appear before us, and I want to acknowledge and thank you for your service.
I know you and the Commissioners are dedicated public servants, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your service to our country.
Your job is not easy, it takes you away from family and friends, and it involves an area of great responsibility - regulating the nation's civilian use of nuclear materials.
The NRC recently was designated the “Best Place to Work” in the federal government. That is an award to be proud of, and it is a testament to the personal leadership and management of each of you on the Commission. Good job and congratulations.
Today's hearing continues our ongoing oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). As the Chairman of this Subcommittee, I intend to continue the tradition of Ranking Member George Voinovich, and before him Senator Jim Inhofe, to regularly hold hearings to review the NRC’s activities.
Earlier this year, I met with Senator Voinovich to discuss our plans for this Subcommittee, and we developed a very extensive oversight agenda to ensure the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The issues we will focus on are:
- New Reactor Licensing: The NRC anticipates receiving 5 to 7 combined operating license applications before the end of the year, and another 10 to 12 during calendar 2008. We want to be sure the Commission is prepared to process these applications.
- Ensuring the NRC has the human capital necessary to fulfill its mission. More than 1/3 of the NRC’s workforce will retire in the next few years – at the same time that the NRC’s responsibilities are expanding.
We intend to closely monitor the NRC’s efforts to hire new employees and the agency’s plans to train these new hires.
- Nuclear Security Regulations: Earlier this year the Commission issued new security requirements for the civilian fleet. In addition, yesterday, the Commission proposed adding plane crash security assessments to new reactor designs. I intend to hold a secure briefing for the Subcommittee in the coming weeks to discuss these security regulations in detail.
- Reactor Safety: I want the people of Delaware and across the country to be safe, and it is the NRC's job to ensure that happens. I have supported the Commission and the nuclear industry as they plan for a “nuclear renaissance” with new plants coming online.
However, we must continue oversight of existing plants, and ensure they perform at a high level of excellence. It is our goal to ensure that the NRC addresses the shortcomings highlighted by GAO last year in the Reactor Oversight Process, and enable the Commission to fulfill its responsibilities and instill public confidence.
The public must have confidence the current fleet and any new reactors are being held to the highest standards.
Again, I thank Chairman Klein and the rest of the Commissioners for coming here to discuss these issues. I look forward to their testimony and to working with my colleagues.