Wednesday, April 25, 2007
First I want to thank Chairman Carper for holding this oversight hearing today. This is the tenth in a series of oversight hearings that began in 1997 when I was the Chairman of this Subcommittee, and Senator Voinovich later continued that tradition. Prior to that first hearing there had not been an NRC oversight hearing in more than a decade.
I think Senators’ Carper and Voinovich would both agree with me that every bureaucracy needs oversight and the NRC has certainly improved immensely over the last 10 years. I would have to say that the NRC has developed into a model agency, and I was pleased to hear that the NRC has been ranked as the best agency to work for in the Federal government.
I must say that in order for the agency to succeed, you must have good leadership and I believe we have had some outstanding Commissioners and Chairmen over the last decade. I want to publicly thank Commissioner Merrifield for his service and dedication, this is probably your last hearing before this Committee, at least as a Commissioner, and you have done an outstanding job.
I would also like to recognize Commissioner McGaffigan, I was happy to hear that your health had improved to the point that you have withdrawn your resignation. I am looking forward to you completing your current term, and I hope you will consider an additional term.
That being said, there are many challenges before the Commission, and there is always room for improvement. I have a few issues that I hope you will address in your statements, and I will follow up during my question and answer.
1. At our hearing last June we discussed the NRC receiving 11 Combined License Applications (COLs). I now understand that you may receive as many as 22 over the next two years. I had concerns last year on whether you were prepared for 11. Are you prepared now for 22? How long do you think each COL will take to process?
2. I agree with Senator Voinovich that the guaranteed loan program is vital to ensuring that we have a new nuclear fleet, and I’m open to suggestions on how this program can be expanded.
3. While I am pleased that you are finalizing the “Part 52 Rule,” for early site permits, I am also concerned about the delays in getting the final rule out and I hope its not a sign of too many agency bottlenecks as we move forward.
4. We need to get Yucca Mountain open and accepting waste as soon as possible. While I understand you cannot prejudge the application, I do want to know whether you need any additional resources or legislative authority to deal with the waste issues.
5. Finally, on security, I think you have done a very good job, we have had a number of closed-door security briefings in this Committee in the past, and I hope those continue. While you must remain diligent in guarding against new risks, you must also balance that against making too many changes in the regulations before all of the security measures have been put into place.