"Let me begin by saying my thoughts and prayers go out to all citizens of Japan, especially to the families of the thousands of disaster victims. As this tragedy unfolds, I encourage the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and other U.S. agencies to continue to coordinate with the Japanese government to provide any assistance they need to recover.
"The events that struck Japan are reminders that we are all vulnerable to unexpected disasters, whether an act of nature or a terrorist attack. While we cannot predict when or where the next major disaster will occur, we know adequate preparation and response planning are vital to minimize injury and death when it does happen. Today's hearing is one of many I hope this Committee will have to make sure our nation has prepared for the worst – in order to prevent any lives lost from nuclear power in this country.
"In the United State we have 104 nuclear power plants in 31 states, which generate approximately a fifth of our nation's total electric consumption. Nuclear power has helped curb our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and reduce air pollution that damages our health and causes global warming.
"Over the years, the NRC has strived to create a "culture of safety" in the U.S. nuclear energy industry. As a result, we have not seen any direct deaths from nuclear power plant radiation exposure in this country. As part of its "culture of safety," the NRC requires nuclear facilities to be designed to withstand natural disasters and terrorist attacks. After September 11th, the NRC took a closer look at the nuclear industry and put into place additional safety and security requirements.
"Despite all the protections in place, the crisis in Japan is a clear warning that we must not become complacent when it comes to nuclear safety. As I often say, if it is not perfect, make it better. That is why Chairman Boxer and I asked the NRC for a comprehensive review of our nuclear fleet. We wanted to make sure every precaution is being taken to safeguard the American people from a similar nuclear incident. The NRC is just getting started on this review and I anxiously await their results.
"Today, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses an update on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and update on our response to that crisis. I also look forward to hearing what we can learn from the ongoing crisis in order to prevent similar events from occurring here. I'm particularly interested in hearing about the state emergency planning process from Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Schiliro.
"As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Nuclear Safety, I take seriously my responsibility to make certain we are taking the appropriate measures to make the nuclear industry safe. As I have said before, while I am a proponent of clean energy, my top priority for our domestic nuclear power industry remains public safety."