EPW Hearing Statement: Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing, “Oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s important hearing. We are here today to continue our oversight of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and hear more about the President’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019. Since joining the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have worked closely with my colleagues to strengthen the ‘culture of safety’ within the U.S. nuclear energy industry. In part due to our collective efforts, and thanks to the NRC leadership and the Commission’s dedicated staff, the NRC continues to be the world’s gold standard for nuclear regulatory agencies.

“A successful organization also needs a strong and dedicated workforce, with the necessary resources, for it to be successful. At one time, employees ranked the NRC as the top place in the federal government to work. However, today, the NRC is 11th in the rankings. Budget cuts and uncertainty in the nuclear industry play a big role in how NRC employees view and rank their workplace. As someone who has made it a priority to get better results for less money across the federal government, I believe there are smart ways that we can save federal money without crippling an agency’s mission. We can – and we must – save money across federal agencies without taking away people’s health care, eliminating protections for our environment and public health or cutting programs that communities rely on. That especially rings true for the NRC. 

“I support improving the NRC’s efficiency and its flexibility to respond to changes in the nuclear industry. However, we cannot cut just for the sake of cutting. We must ensure the NRC has adequate funding to continue to attract the best and brightest talent so that the agency continues to be the global gold standard for safety.  

“Today, I am interested in hearing if the President’s budget – which, I believe, falls short in a number of areas – will provide the NRC enough funding to protect the public and be responsive to the industry needs. Beyond the budget, I am particularly interested in hearing more about what the NRC is doing to protect our nuclear reactors from cyber-attacks and with respect to the development of advanced reactors and advanced fuels.

“As many in this room know, the nuclear industry is facing a growing list of challenges. I believe there is still hope for this carbon-free technology, but the decisions that we make today will affect the industry for generations to come. If our country is smart, we will replace older nuclear technology with new technology developed right here at home that is safer, produces less spent fuel and is cheaper to build and operate. That way, we can reap the economic and clean air benefits of a new, advanced nuclear generation. But in order to do so, we must make sure that the NRC has the resources it needs to review these new technologies and ensure our current nuclear reactor fleet remains safe. Thank you Mr. Chairman.”