Opening Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer
Full Committee: "Hearing on the Nominations of William C. Ostendorff to be a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Richard C. Howorth to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority; and Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick to be Chief of Engineers/Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers"
May 25, 2011
(Remarks as prepared for delivery.)
Today, we are here to consider nominations for three important positions within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and United States Army Corps of Engineers.
First, I would like to welcome Mr. Ostendorff, who is currently a Commissioner on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and has been renominated for a five-year term.
The NRC is an independent agency created by Congress to regulate commercial nuclear power plants and the use of nuclear materials through licensing, inspection and enforcement. By statute, the NRC is charged with protecting the health and safety of the American people, and minimizing danger to life or property.
In the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan, the NRC's current assumptions about the safety and security of nuclear power plants in the U.S. need to be reevaluated. The NRC is taking some initial steps to do that. For example,
• the NRC's resident inspectors have inspected and issued reports on the 104 operating nuclear reactors and their ability to address power losses or damage following extreme events; and
• the NRC is conducting a 90-day review of its processes and regulations in light of the events in Japan.
These reviews are a good first step, but I expect the NRC to take a hard look at current practices and at making improvements to current safeguards.
NRC inspections have already identified deficiencies at the two nuclear power plants in California-Diablo Canyon Power Plant and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. I want to ensure those plants undergo thorough reviews and implement any changes necessary to ensure the health and safety of Californians.
This Committee will hold an NRC oversight hearing next month, when we will learn more about these reviews and any recommendations the NRC may offer.
I look forward to Commissioner Ostendorff's testimony today and his responses to our questions.
I would also like to welcome Richard C. Howorth, nominee to be a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors.
Congress created the TVA in 1933 as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal. It was an ambitious and unprecedented government effort to help a deeply impoverished area.
TVA's mandate is to be a national leader in technological innovation, low-cost power, and environmental stewardship. That mandate is particularly important today, because energy and environmental opportunities can create new jobs and economic growth in our country.
I understand that TVA may expand its reliance on nuclear power. However, earlier this month one of TVA's three nuclear plants received a "red" finding -- the most serious -- from the NRC for a faulty valve that could have impaired emergency cooling and risked core damage.
Particularly in light of what has happened in Japan and the recent tornados that have devastated communities in the U.S., TVA needs to make sure its nuclear power plants are safe and secure.
I look forward to hearing from Mr. Howorth on how he will help TVA ensure the health and safety of people in the region while achieving its mandate of being a national leader in innovation and environmental stewardship.
Finally, I would like to welcome Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, nominee to be Chief of Engineers/Commanding General of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. General Bostick, while your nomination is not in our Committee's jurisdiction, I appreciate you agreeing to appear today, given our oversight responsibility for the Corps' civil works program.
The Army Corps, which you will be charged with leading, has a direct impact on jobs, lives, and communities across this country. The historic floods on the Mississippi River clearly demonstrate the importance of flood control infrastructure and the Corps' critical role in protecting life and property.
In my State of California, residents depend on levees and other infrastructure built in partnership with the Corps. For example, the State of California and the City of Sacramento have invested significant funding to initiate design and construction of levees that will provide a 200-year level of protection in Sacramento's Natomas Basin. Federal support is critical for the project to move to completion and reduce flood risk for Sacramento residents.
The Corps also maintains harbors, such as Oakland and Long Beach, which facilitate the flow of much of our nation's commerce. And many of the nation's most ambitious efforts to restore degraded ecosystems, such as the Everglades and the coast of Louisiana, are led by the Corps. I expect the Corps will play an important role as efforts continue to restore the California Bay-Delta.
Strong leadership is needed to carry out the Corps' important mission. I look forward to working with you on the many water resource needs and challenges facing our nation.
Thanks again to each of the nominees for being here today.
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