Sen. Carper: Safety Must be Priority for Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Licenses for New Nuclear Power Plants Sought From NRC for First Time in 30 Years

WASHINGTON — Safe nuclear power is what this country needs and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must provide strong oversight, said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety.

Sen. Carper called today’s oversight hearing to examine how the NRC will maintain the highest safety standards and protections as it begins to accept and review applications for what could be the first new US nuclear energy facility in nearly 30 years. 

“I have been working to make sure the NRC is ready for this nuclear renaissance and will continue to watch the agency closely as new license applications are reviewed and approved in the coming years,” Sen. Carper said. “In the end, if all goes well we will have the first of possibly 30 new reactors built in the United States over the next seven to eight years.”

Sen. Carper stressed that not only are new reactors important to meet growing electricity demands, but the 104 reactors currently operating in the United States must remain safe and secure to ensure this nuclear renaissance continues.

“In short, the NRC and the reactor operators must get it right every day at every nuclear plant,” Sen. Carper said. “In the nuclear power industry, perfection cannot be just a goal; it must be a daily practice.”

Sen. Carper spoke specifically of his recent tour of the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant near York, Pa., where it was first reported to the NRC in March 2007 that security officers were sleeping on duty. After the incident was reported last March, the licensee of Peach Bottom, Exelon, said there were no such security concerns and at the time the NRC was satisfied.

But in September 2007, the NRC was presented with a video from a local television station that showed a number of security officers at Peach Bottom sleeping in the “ready room.” After more NRC and company investigations, Exelon fired its security company, Wackenhut Nuclear Services, at Peach Bottom and at its 10 facilities and now uses in-house security.

“As chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the NRC and our nation’s civilian nuclear operations, I want to ensure this essential federal agency is protecting the public’s health and security,” Sen. Carper said. “A strong, robust future for the nuclear industry requires a strong and robust Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”