Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

David Lungren (202) 224-5642

Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Full Committee and Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety joint hearing entitled, "Review of the Nuclear Emergency in Japan and Implications for the U.S." 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 2:45 pm  

Chairman Jaczko, I appreciate your efforts to assure the nation that our nuclear plants here in the U.S. are safe.  Administrator Jackson, I also appreciate your repeated reassurances that traces of radioactive materials that have drifted here from Japan will not impact public health. 

I'm sure we all agree that we need to study the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant and learn from it.  As Chairman Jaczko frequently reminds us, we can't be complacent with regard to nuclear safety.  Even so, we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear.  Harnessing ANY energy source carries some measure of risk that must be safely managed for our nation to prosper.

Ensuring the safe use of nuclear energy is a very serious job.  In 1974, Congress established an independent commission and charged five individuals with the responsibility to protect public health and safety.  The public is best served by a commission that functions collectively and collegially.  I'm concerned that the public may currently be getting less than it deserves.

I was surprised to learn from my staff that Chairman Jaczko has invoked emergency authority and transferred Commission functions to himself in the wake of the earthquake in Japan, especially after speaking with me personally by telephone and appearing before this Committee in a public briefing-and failing to mention it either time.  The law confers emergency authority on the Chairman in the wake of an emergency at a particular facility or materials regulated by the NRC.  At present, I'm not aware that an emergency condition exists at any U.S. facility.

Chairman Jaczko, I want to work with you as the NRC tries to understand what happened in Japan, and what the United States can learn from it.  But our collaboration-indeed, collaboration with all of us in Congress-can only proceed fruitfully if we have openness and transparency.  That applies to your office.  So as we move forward, I hope you will provide us with full and complete information about your activities, and that you will work with your fellow commissioners in the same spirit. 

In that vein, I look forward to your testimony, and yours Administrator Jackson, and to working with both of you on gaining a full understanding of the impact of the Fukushima accident. 

But, before I yield to my colleague, I'd be remiss if I didn't say I'm anxious to see progress on the renominations of Commissioners Ostendorff and Svinicki which I hope President Obama sends us soon.  Given the scope of issues before the Commission, it is important that the agency continues to benefit from their valuable expertise.