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 Briefing on Nuclear Plant Crisis in Japan and Implications for the United States

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 3:30 pm

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Japanese people as they struggle to cope with this catastrophe.  Their calm and perseverance in the face of this crisis is a testament to their character. 

Chairman Jaczko, I appreciated your phone call on Monday.  I want to emphasize my commitment to support the NRC with any resources they may need in their efforts to assist the Japanese. 

Thinking closer to home, I was pleased to hear you say that the NRC is continuing its work and not halting licensing efforts in a knee-jerk reaction to current events.

Clearly, there will be lessons that the nuclear industry world-wide will need to learn from this to make nuclear energy safer.  However, it is premature to draw conclusions about the U.S. nuclear energy program from the tragedy in Japan.  

I agree with Chairman Jaczko that our nuclear plants are safe.  Our reactors are robust and designed to withstand significant natural disasters like earthquakes, tornados and hurricanes.  They incorporate a defense-in-depth approach and have multiple levels of redundant systems.  The NRC and the industry have a systematic process to incorporate lessons learned from events worldwide and improve the safety of our plants.  For example, the NRC and industry worked together to revise plant protections in the wake of the embassy bombings in 1998 and to address aircraft concerns following September 11.

I agree with Sec. Chu that we should continue to develop new nuclear plants.  While every nuclear country will draw their OWN conclusions on the future of nuclear, I firmly believe the U.S. should continue forward. 

In the wake of this disaster, I believe that any immediate scrutiny by the NRC should be measured and limited to those plants which face a significant tsunami risk.  The two new nuclear plants under development in Georgia and South Carolina DO NOT face such risks and should move forward.  The NRC and its advisory body of experts have reviewed the AP1000 design proposed for both sites and declared that it is safe and meets all regulatory requirements.  It is appropriate that we move forward with the licensing work and construction of these new reactors while we look closely for lessons learned for the existing fleet, rather than pursue an unnecessary delay.  Our nation's need for reliable, affordable energy won't wait.