Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).”
The hearing featured testimony from Kristine Svinicki, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and NRC Commissioners Jeff Baran, Stephen Burns, Annie Caputo, and David Wright.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today’s oversight hearing will be looking at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“I welcome all five commissioners here today to the committee.
“Last May, the Senate confirmed Commissioners Caputo, Wright and Baran.
“As a result, the commission now has a full slate of five commissioners for the first time since 2014.
“This morning Commissioners Caputo and Wright will testify before Congress for the first time since being confirmed.
“I look forward to the testimony.
“Today also marks the last time Commissioner Burns will be testifying
before this committee.
“His term concludes this summer.
“Commissioner Burns served the agency in various capacities for over forty years –remarkable service. We’re very grateful.
“You were chairman from 2015 through 2017.
“We want to thank you on behalf of the entire committee for all of your service to the NRC.
“Last week marked 11 years of continuous service as a commissioner for Chairman Svinicki.
“This is unprecedented. So far, her tenure as chairman has been very productive.
“Last September, Chairman Svinicki and then-Wyoming Governor Mead signed an agreement in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
“The agreement allows the state of Wyoming to license and regulate uranium recovery facilities.
“This has been a long time priority for me.
“Thank you for your leadership to assure the agreement was signed in a timely manner.
“Affordable, reliable electricity powers a strong economy.
“Nuclear energy is by far the most reliable carbon-free energy source.
“Nuclear energy also provides more than twice the amount of electricity as wind and solar combined.
“Nuclear power provides about 60 percent of our nation’s emissions-free energy.
“If we are serious about climate change, we must be serious about expanding our use of nuclear energy.
“In 2018, nuclear energy generated a record-breaking amount of electricity in the United States.
“Regrettably, last year’s record will not be broken again unless we take dramatic action.
“Two nuclear power plants will close this year.
“An additional eight reactors are expected to close between 2020 and 2022.
“We need to work to reverse this trend.
“Shuttering nuclear plants not only reduces the amount of dependable energy produced, but also increases a plant’s regulatory costs since fewer plants are available to fund the commission’s work.
“In this regard, I am pleased the commission has submitted a smaller budget that reflects the reduced workload.
“I encourage the commission to continue to find ways to make their work more efficient.
“For example, the commission’s staff should focus their efforts on issues of greatest safety significance.
“This would not only reduce budgetary demands, it would also allow nuclear reactor operators to focus on the most important safety issues.
“Predictable and transparent budgets should align with predictable and transparent regulations.
“The commission’s completion of a major rulemaking in January did just that.
“This rulemaking requires nuclear power plants to be prepared for an unforeseen emergency.
“It’s a culmination of years of work in response to the 2011 nuclear crisis in Japan.
“I look forward to hearing more about the rulemaking.
“In addition to maintaining predictable requirements for existing nuclear reactors, the commission must also establish the rules for new nuclear technologies.
“That’s why I was pleased President Trump signed into law the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act in January.
“A number of us cosponsored this bipartisan legislation.
“I cosponsored with seven members of our committee to help American nuclear innovators develop, license, and deploy advanced nuclear technologies.
“These new technologies could increase safety, could decrease costs, and could reduce nuclear waste.
“They are also necessary to achieve low-carbon energy future for our country and the world.
“America has always been the global leader in nuclear technology.
“We can’t allow our international rivals to surpass us.
“The commission plays a vital role in this global competition.
“The commission should prioritize activities to advance American nuclear leadership.
“For example, new and upgraded fuel types, known as Accident Tolerant Fuel, can improve safety, make plants more cost-efficient, and generate less waste.
“That is a win-win-win.
“While we seek to reestablish American leadership for nuclear reactor operation and technology, we must not disregard the dire outlook of American uranium production.
“Last year, two American uranium companies petitioned the Department of Commerce to consider the national security impacts of uranium imports.
“I support this review.
“The deadline for the administration’s response to the petition is approaching.
“The administration must take meaningful steps to maintain and grow American uranium production.
“Our American uranium industry must not be forced out of business due to unfair competition driven by Russia and other nations.
“It is also critically important for the federal government to properly manage and dispose our nation’s spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.
“I am pleased the commission’s budget requests $39 million to resume its review of the Yucca Mountain site, as required by law.
“Congress should support this request.”