Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Jeffords, and Committee Members. I thank you for the opportunity to testify before your Environment and Public Works Committee. It is an honor and privilege to appear before you today.
I was greatly honored by my recess appointment by the President to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). After being sworn in on January 25, I’ve been busy, along with my fellow Commissioners, in the deliberations of the Commission.
Nuclear energy is a vital component of our nation’s energy portfolio, providing twenty percent of our nation’s electricity. Nuclear technologies are important to many other industries, and help to underpin our nation’s strong economy, quality of life, and standard of living. But nuclear energy and other nuclear technologies will be utilized only if safety, security, and environmental considerations are addressed to the satisfaction of the public.
The Commission has an important role with respect to the safety and security of our existing civilian nuclear plants and fuel cycle facilities. And if the utility industry proposes expansion of the nation’s nuclear energy production, the Commission must also play a vital role.
For both existing and any new plants and facilities, the Commission must evaluate current operations and new proposals with the goal of ensuring that each one provides adequate protection of public health and safety and the environment. In addition, new and existing plants and facilities must address the increased security concerns that are present in a post-9/11 world and we must be prepared to respond to any radiological emergency. In addition, the Congress and the American people must be kept informed of our activities.
In a similar fashion, the Commission regulates other civilian applications of nuclear technologies, with their widespread applications to medicine and other industries. Here again, the NRC has key responsibilities.
The challenging and crucial nature of the Commission’s decisions is vital on all these issues. I want to assure the Committee that I am committed to careful evaluation of the facts of each case on which I render a decision. I pledge to you that all decisions I make will be based on the existing laws and regulations and on the merits of each specific case.
I believe that my past experiences will be useful in my service on the Commission. My academic training in nuclear physics at Cal Tech, my three decades at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and my eight years on Senate staff have prepared me for this new role.
I’ve always viewed national security as a broad arena, to include our nation’s military, safety, economic, and environmental well-being. Within that definition, I contributed to a very wide range of national security interests throughout my service at Los Alamos and in the Senate. I view my service as a Commissioner as another opportunity to contribute to our nation’s security through the Commission’s specific focus on safety, security, and environmental impacts of civilian uses of nuclear technologies.
My experiences at Los Alamos provided many lessons relevant to this appointment. At the Laboratory, I managed and led large complex national security projects with critical deadlines and complex safety issues involving hundreds of scientists with budgets of multi-$100 million. I participated in programs at the highest classification levels and assisted in cleanup of environmental problems which arose from the legacy of nuclear technologies used in the past, before our current focus on future environmental impacts.
While in Los Alamos, I was first elected and then re-elected twice to serve a total of sixteen years on the Los Alamos School Board. While a local school board certainly does not make policy decisions rivaling the impact of those made by the Commission, that experience definitely broadened my appreciation for public service and provided further relevant management experiences.
During my time on Senate staff, I supported and witnessed policy deliberations on a wide range of civilian and military nuclear issues.
I will draw on this range of knowledge and experience as I discharge my responsibilities on the Commission.
In preparing this statement, I reviewed testimony provided by previous Commissioners at their confirmation hearings. I was struck by the statement from Kenneth Rogers in 1987 when he stated:
I am committed to the position that the NRC is an independent regulatory agency that must render its decisions on the basis of a publicly open record. It must promptly and vigorously enforce its regulations, which must themselves be established on the very best professionally recognized technical and factual basis. However, as a regulatory agency whose credibility with the public is vital, the NRC must maintain a distinct, perceptible distance from industry and a totally professional posture that recognizes that distance. It is very important in discharging that responsibility, that the Commission does so in a manner of openness and candor that clearly demonstrates to the public and its elected representatives that the Commission’s priorities and actions are assiduously directed to the successful fulfillment of that mission in an unbiased and firm manner.
This statement of Commissioner Rogers accurately describes my own commitment to those same values that he described so well eighteen years ago.
I look forward to future interactions with this Committee. I assure you that I stand ready to respond to any and all inquiries from this Committee and that I welcome guidance from this Committee in discharging my responsibilities.
I look forward to addressing your questions.
Thank you for the opportunity of testifying before your Committee.