WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held an oversight hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Today, we will hear from the three members currently serving on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Let me start by welcoming them back to the EPW Committee. Chairman Hanson, Commissioner Baran, and Commissioner Wright—thank you all for being here with us today. It is great to see each of you again.

“This hearing is an opportunity for our Committee to examine the NRC’s work, understand what is working and learn what we can do to address any challenges this important agency is facing.

“We appreciate the Commissioners joining us today because it is important for us to hear directly from them. We want to ensure that the NRC has the resources it needs to maintain the safety of existing nuclear facilities and also prepare for the future. This includes the work required to develop and deploy the next generation of reactors, as well as new, advanced nuclear technology and materials.

“As many of you know, I believe that safe nuclear power plays an important role in our efforts to address the greatest challenge of our time—the climate crisis.

“America’s nuclear reactors provide one-fifth of our nation’s electricity and over half of all emissions-free energy in this country. Nuclear energy is key to reaching net-zero emissions economy-wide, and the NRC is critical to ensuring that our nuclear energy is safe and reliable.

“In August, I had the opportunity to visit the Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants—just across the Delaware River in our neighboring state of New Jersey—along with Chairman Hanson. I was quite impressed with what we saw and heard during our visit. These two plants employ more than 1,600 people. They keep electricity rates affordable and help make the electric grid more reliable. Most importantly, they do all these things safely.

“The NRC remains the global model for nuclear safety agencies, and the Commission’s work to maintain safe and secure nuclear power is an essential tool in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Unfortunately, our existing, aging and inefficient nuclear fleet is struggling to keep up with our growing needs for safe, climate-friendly power. Several nuclear plants have closed prematurely in recent years, and several more are expected to close this decade.

“But from this adversity comes opportunity—and now, American innovators can rise to the challenge and work to develop the next generation of reactors and technologies. Doing so will place our nation at the forefront of the revolution to clean energy, all while creating jobs and economic opportunity for the American people. That’s something we should all support.

“And, as we work to meet this moment, we open the door to another critical opportunity—the chance to right the wrongs of the past and address the historic impacts of pollution on disadvantaged and underserved communities across our country.

“As a founder and co-chair of the Senate Environmental Justice Caucus, I think it is essential for the NRC to bring that focus on equity to their work as we pave the way for a new era of non-polluting and safe nuclear power.

“So, I’m pleased that the NRC is currently undergoing a review of its environmental justice policies and programs. I hope and expect that these efforts will empower those communities historically left behind by our energy policies and will give them a seat at the table in the NRC’s decision-making processes and—hopefully—within the nuclear industry more broadly.

“These are good efforts underway at the Commission. So in closing, I look forward to hearing from each of you about how this Committee can better support your efforts.

“Together, we can—and we must—ensure that a revitalized nuclear industry is a significant part of our national strategy to combat climate change by providing safe, secure, clean, and affordable energy to all Americans.”