Statements and Speeches

WASHINGTON - Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Nuclear Safety, convened the hearing, "Oversight: Recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future for a Consent-Based Approach to Siting Nuclear Waste Storage and Management Facilities"

For more information on the hearing or to watch a webcast of the hearing, please click here.

A copy of Sen. Carper's opening statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

Across this country, we have 104 operating nuclear power reactors providing this nation with clean, reliable power. Unlike fossil fuel power plants, these nuclear power plants do not emit sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, or carbon dioxide – all of which harm our health and our environment.

Currently, our nuclear reactors are storing their spent nuclear fuel on site – in a safe and reliable manner. I've been told that the technology we have to store spent nuclear fuel – called dry cask storage – can be safe for 50-100 years, maybe longer.

However, our nuclear reactors were not designed to keep their spent fuel on-site forever. As our reactors age and are decommissioned – we must find an ultimate resting place for our nuclear spent fuel. Unfortunately, our country has been on a path to finding a place for our nuclear spent fuel for decades.

It was over thirty years ago when Congress realized the importance of finding a permanent solution for the disposal of our spent nuclear fuel and high level waste. In response, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 – moving this country toward deep-mined geologic nuclear waste repository. After years of studies and debate – we find ourselves thirty years later at a dead-end. We have no functioning nuclear waste repository and none in the foreseeable future.

I applaud President Obama for realizing that we needed to forge a new pathway to dealing with our nuclear waste - by forming the Blue Ribbon Commission. I want to thank General Scowcroft, Congressman Hamilton, Commissioner Peterson and the other Commissioners for their hard work on this report. I think the Commission did a thorough job – reaching out to thousands of Americans and folks all over the world in search of the best way to move forward.

The Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations provide us with an excellent roadmap to enable us to a new path. But before we start running full speed ahead, I believe we need to make sure that we fully learn from our past mistakes and not repeat those missteps. If not, our country may well find itself thirty years later in the same dead-end situation we face today

I believe that one of the biggest mistakes we made is we were unable to get consent from all parties on the location of a disposal. Somehow we've learned how to get communities to compete for the siting of prisons in this country, but haven't learned how to get communities to compete for our disposal sites. That is why I believe, out of all the Blue Ribbon Commission's recommendation, the recommendation on consent-based siting is the most important, and that is why we are focusing our hearing on this issue today.

As a former two-term governor, I know that any consent based approach must include a meaningful partnership between federal, local and state leaders. We must also have open communication with the people who live and work in those communities. Only with open communication, will we be able to reestablish the public trust and confidence that are needed to solve our nuclear waste disposal issue once and for all.

In closing, I am looking forward to today's discussion. I'm especially interested in hearing what lessons we can learn from our mistakes and what we can do different as we examine how consent-based siting might work here in the United States.