Sen. Carper Leads Oversight of Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Urges Public Safety First When Reviewing New Reactor Applications This Year

The public must have confidence in our current nuclear power plants, and any new reactors coming online must also be held to the highest standards, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said at a hearing he chaired today for Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety.
“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) anticipates receiving five to seven applications for new nuclear plants before the end of this year, and 10 to 12 more applications next year,” Sen. Carper said. “These new reactors are important, and I believe that we will have to rely on nuclear energy if we’re to combat global warming and meet our growing energy demands. However,the 104 reactors currently operating in the United States must remain the agency’s top priorityAll existing plants must perform at the highest level of excellence or it will be difficult to justify bringing any new plants online.”
Today’s subcommittee hearing is the second NRC oversight hearing Sen. Carper has chaired since assuming the chairmanship of this subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. The NRC oversight process involves self-monitoring, NRC inspectors working daily on-site, and an annual, targeted inspection by the NRC,
“I want the people of Delaware and across the country to be safe, and it is the NRC’s job to ensure their safety when it comes to licensing and operating power plants,” Sen. Carper said. 
The NRC was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to license and regulate the civilian use of nuclear materials to protect public health and safety, and the environment. The NRC is responsible for consistent oversight of the nation’s 104 power plants.
In addition to new reactor licensing, Sen. Carper and Ranking Member George Voinovich have developed an extensive oversight agenda to ensure the nuclear industry and the NRC are prepared for the challenges and the opportunities ahead, which include:
  • Ensuring the NRC has enough employees. More than one-third of the NRC’s workforce will retire in the next few years – at the same time that the NRC’s responsibilities are expanding. The subcommittee will closely monitor the NRC’s efforts to hire and train new employees. 
  • Finding new solutions to nuclear waste disposal. The subcommittee will look at methods to decrease or eliminate altogether nuclear waste from power plants.