406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room
Thomas R. Carper
Senator Tom Carper
Review of the NRC's Near-Term Task Force Recommendations
for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century
December 15, 2011
“Let me begin by welcoming back the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Commissioners to our Committee. I appreciate you taking the time to be before us today.
“Currently, this country has 104 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 states. Collectively, these nuclear power plants generate approximately 20 percent of our nation's total electric consumption.
“The energy from these nuclear power plants have helped curb our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and has helped reduce our air pollution that damages health and causes global warming.
“Despite the benefits of nuclear power, we have also seen the damages nuclear power can cause if not properly regulated.
“The crisis at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi facility is a strong reminder that with nuclear energy, we can never be complacent when it comes to safety. Safety must always be our top priority.
“As I often say, if it is not perfect, make it better.
“That is why I was pleased to see that quickly after the Fukushima crisis, the NRC decided to put together a Task Force to review its own practices to see if we could do better in the United States to protect safety.
“Today, I look forward to hearing an update on the NRC Task Force recommendation; hearing what the Commissioners view as their top concerns; and hearing when we might see actions.
“I believe we all need to work together to make sure we incorporate the right lessons learned to keep our nuclear fleet safe into the future. I look forward to working with the NRC to ensure that happens.
“Speaking of working together, I would like to take a moment to talk the interactions of the Commissioners.
“For over a decade, as a member of the Senate EPW Committee, I have worked closely with the men and women who have served on the NRC.
“As Chairman of the subcommittee responsible for nuclear safety, I have been particularly interested in the effective operation of the NRC.
“I said many times that there have never been five better qualified people to serve as commissioners than those who serve today.
“That is why I am so disappointed that the five commissioners, each talented and capable in their own right, have been unable to work together as a cohesive body.
“During the past year, I have sought to improve the tenor of relationships among the five current commissioners of the NRC.
“While I am discouraged that those efforts have not been as successful as I would have hoped, I am confident that the NRC will continue its critical mission – ensuring the safety and reliability of our nation's nuclear reactors now and in the future.
“Recent disagreements among commissioners, while significant, have not impacted nuclear safety, nor should they.
“Moving forward, I will continue to encourage cooperation and collegiality among the commission members and most importantly, that Congress provides the tools and resources the commission needs to carry out its mission of protecting public safety through responsible nuclear regulation.”