Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Jeffords and Committee Members, it is an honor to appear before you today as President Bush’s nominee for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
I want to acknowledge the presence of my wife, Becky.
The current Commissioners have laid substantial groundwork to help prepare the NRC for the challenges it faces in the coming years. Challenge is the appropriate word. The next several years will be perhaps the most significant in decades in terms of regulating the civilian use of nuclear materials.
This challenge is all the more important when viewed through the lens of what is happening in the energy arena. The global energy supply can affect both the U.S. economy and U.S. interests. Oil and natural gas prices are at levels never before seen. Domestic and global demand continues to rise. There are forecasts that U.S. electricity demand will rise by 50 percent in just over two decades. Clearly, nuclear energy has a role to play in meeting that demand.
The charge of the NRC is to “license and regulate the Nation’s civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment.”
In meeting that mission, regulatory stability is a crucial element. The NRC must clearly define the requirements. It must respond in a timely manner. I believe the groundwork laid by the Commission will be the key to providing the necessary regulatory stability.
The challenges ahead for the NRC are substantial: dealing with the impending bow wave of applications for new reactors, overseeing their construction, and simultaneously ensuring that existing plants receive the high standard of regulatory oversight set by the NRC. The already high security of nuclear facilities must be maintained. And there is the challenge to the agency of dealing with a potential application by the Energy Department for a high level waste repository. Both this Committee and the Appropriations Committee have been very supportive of the Commission. Continued support will be essential to help ensure that the licensing process moves smoothly. If confirmed, you have my assurance I will work closely with you and the Members of this Committee on these issues.
Ensuring that the current fleet of commercial nuclear power plants receive the proper level of scrutiny during the coming decade – as new plants are licensed and built – will require a continued focus by the NRC on quality oversight. If confirmed, I can assure you that I intend to see that the lessons learned from the past are institutionalized in the NRC.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, while much of my background is technical in nature, I am an experienced administrator who believes in milestones and deliverables. My goal is to make sound decisions, based on sound science and sound public policy. If confirmed, I look forward to working with this committee and the challenge of being an NRC commissioner.
This concludes my statement. I look forward to your questions.