Vitter Summary Statement on NRC Oversight Hearing
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works “Oversight Hearing: NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and Other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety”
June 4, 2014
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and I would also like to thank our NRC commissioners for being here to testify before this committee.
Lately, various members on this committee have been very proactive in attempting to change how the NRC manages itself and our nation's nuclear-powered electricity generating facilities. In recent months, we have seen legislation, letters, and statements from my colleagues in favor of new, and might I add, mostly unnecessary regulations.
Today I want to urge our commissioners to be precise and direct in their thoughts on these initiatives and to commit to using the best available science and facts to ensure that any new rules and regulations are actually necessary for our fleet, which happens to have a long track record of safety.
Members of Congress should not be committed to regulating just for the sake of regulating. Such a mindset results in economic hardship and a diminished capacity for our energy sector to meet the needs of this nation.
There exists a base-line standard that the Commission should meet when considering new regulations, and I would like to commend the Commission for basing their recent vote, to eliminate further generic assessments to expedite the transfer of spent fuel from pools to dry storage, on facts and sound science.
While some of my colleagues may disagree with the Commission and myself on this issue, it is important to note that the NRC staff who recommended the elimination of these generic assessments had extensively studied the issue and compiled all available data to make the best possible recommendation.
As most of you are aware, this past Monday EPA Administer Gina McCarthy and President Obama released new regulations for carbon emissions from existing power plants as part of the President's Climate Action Plan. While the President's efforts to kill coal-fired generation are obvious and already underway, a more subversive effort to cripple the nuclear industry is also ongoing.
When he first announced the Climate Action plan, the President notoriously stated that he supports an "all-of-the-above" approach. The disingenuous nature of this claim requires only a cursory review of recent actions by the Administration. For the nuclear sector, the work being done to undermine the waste confidence rule and kill the Yucca Mountain project is a clear example of a long-term strategy to shut down more of our nation's nuclear reactors.
Another example is the recent 316(b) rule for cooling water intake systems. Although EPA's rule this time around may not look like it will have the critical impact many in the environmental community had hoped, it will certainly be litigated and whatever deal the EPA cuts behind closed doors will assuredly be worse.
I firmly believe that nuclear energy should play a role in meeting our domestic energy needs. However, I am concerned that Senate Democrats are using these hearings to provide cover for their efforts to kill nuclear generation in their own states, which has only served to decrease the output and capacity of our nation's reliable nuclear reactor fleet. Ironically, these shutdowns will increase greenhouse gas emissions as states struggle to find other baseload power.
Continued efforts to force the NRC to needlessly pursue regulations, which offer no real safety gains, is a classic example of the sprawling big government mindset that persists in Washington.
Finally, I would like to state my concern on the lack of communication from the NRC or the Administration about the re-nomination of Commissioner Apostolakis whose term is up at the end of this month, as well as a replacement for Commissioner Magwood when he vacates his seat later this year. Keeping these positions filled by qualified individuals must remain a priority to ensure the safety of our constituents and for our nation's economy. I urge the Administration to act on this quickly so that the Commission can continue its important work without interruption or distractions.
Again, thank you very much for being here, and I look forward to hearing from you on these important issues.