Vitter Summary Statement for NRC Oversight Hearing
November 21, 2013
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
"Oversight Hearing: NRC's Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and Other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety"
November 21, 2013
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening today's hearing, and I would also like to thank our NRC commissioners for being here as well.
I would like to take a second to applaud the Commission for complying with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's decision mandating that the NRC must continue its review of the Yucca Mountain Application, at least until existing funds have been spent.
Completion of this review is an important step forward in addressing legal and long-term management of nuclear waste. More importantly, it is a step in the right direction for the Federal Government after years of political games taking precedent over good policy. After spending over $15 billion to develop this project, it is wholly irresponsible and a failure of leadership that the study was halted in the first place, and it should not have required a court ruling to get back on track and force its completion.
As elected officials and members of this committee, we are tasked with oversight of the NRC. That includes ensuring that the commission is promoting effective safety standards that protect the public while also preserving economic stability in the industry.
Safety is a priority for the members of this committee, and the Fukushima accident two years ago continues to serve as a powerful reminder of how important a commitment industry and agency oversight remains.
Nuclear energy has become an indispensable contributor to our base-load electricity needs and will continue to be for years to come. As we move forward, we must keep in mind the negative consequences that may result from misguided regulations and federal interferences that fail to pass a clear cost-benefit analysis.
Regulations for the sake of regulating can profoundly affect the industry and corresponding economy, but more importantly can also burden the everyday consumer who relies on energy to meet their everyday needs.
In recent years we have seen what crippling results can ensue when the commission loses sight of its mission and allows partisan politics to sway their decisions. Plant closures should be based solely on economic realities and real safety concerns, rather than agenda driven political efforts that lose sight of real-world impacts.
Closing a plant can have many consequences, especially when no clear alternative for power production is in place. This can lead to increased electricity rates, local economic decline, negative environmental consequences, and the loss of desperately needed jobs. For example, one recent plant closure resulted in a significant increase to local energy costs, the loss of 1,500 jobs, and contributed to a 35 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
While the effects of the Fukushima accident will no doubt continue to play a role in future regulation of the U.S. nuclear industry, it is important to remember that our reactor fleet is the safest in the world. That status existed before Fukushima, and continues today.
Again, thank you very much for being here, and I look forward to hearing from you on these important issues.