Matt Dempsey (202) 224-9797

Katie Brown (202) 224-2160      

Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

Full Committee hearing entitled, "Hearing on the nomination of Allison Macfarlane and re-nomination of Kristine L. Svinicki to be Members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

June 13, 2012  10:00 AM

Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for holding this hearing. One of the Senate's more important responsibilities is to offer advice and provide consent to the President's nominations.

The nomination of Kristine Svinicki to continue to serve on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is crucial; especially as the Commission enters a tumultuous time with a lack of transparent leadership while continuing to make important decisions regarding nuclear safety.  Five years ago, she was confirmed by this committee, and in the Senate, by unanimous consent, and President Obama has taken the prudent step to re-nominate her to serve another five year term.  Commissioner Svinicki's qualifications are stellar: Prior to her term on the NRC, she had many years of experience on Capitol Hill, serving as staff of the Armed Services Committee.  She is a nuclear engineer dedicated public service and has drawn praise from both Democrats and Republicans.

In her current role as Commissioner, her contribution has been essential as the Commission has worked to unravel lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.  Commissioner Svinicki's perspective was also crucial in finalizing the Commission's review of the Vogtle and Summer nuclear plants, the first two new nuclear plant licenses in over 30 years.  Her voting record at the NRC shows that she is a conscientious and objective policymaker with a strong dedication to safety.  Her demonstrated collaboration with her Commission colleagues shows her to be studious, thoughtful, and compelling with an admirable capacity to produce bipartisan results.

We are also considering the nomination of Dr. Allison Macfarlane to complete the term of Chairman Greg Jaczko.  Given the numerous reports of Chairman Jaczko's failed leadership at the NRC, it was right of him to resign last month.  By removing himself as a distraction to the agency, the Commission can once again focus on its mission of nuclear safety.

It is my hope that Dr. Macfarlane can step in to be a valuable member of the Commission, although I have some concerns about her lack of management and nuclear safety experience.  Additionally, I am concerned with her pre-conceived notions of spent fuel disposal.  While she is obviously very well informed in the back end fuel cycle, I hope that her previous research and publications will not inhibit her ability to be a fair judge of the licensing of a nuclear waste repository.

Despite my concerns, I think we all can agree that the NRC functions most effectively as a full commission.  I am encouraged to hear from her individual meetings with my staff that she intends to treat her peers - both fellow Commissioners and general staff at the NRC - as equals and as a valuable knowledge base.  I sincerely hope she follows through on her statements, because that collegiality has been severely tarnished in recent years.

This Committee has a longstanding bipartisan tradition of considering nominations in a timely fashion.  Nominees have historically been given an up or down vote by the Committee the week following the hearing.  Therefore I am hopeful that a vote will be quickly scheduled to avoid an unfortunate lapse in service by Commissioner Svinicki.

Commissioner Svinicki and Dr. Macfarlane, I look forward to hearing from you.