Statements and Speeches

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Nuclear Safety, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, convened the joint hearing, "Oversight Hearing: NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety."

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

Thank you, Senator Boxer, for holding this very important hearing.  We are mindful of the critical role the Nuclear Regulatory Commission plays in protecting the public and the environment.  Nuclear energy provides one fifth of our nation’s electricity and as our country’s demand for electricity continues to grow, nuclear energy is also one of the cleanest energy sources available.

I want to welcome our witnesses and thank them for taking time to come before us today. 

Just over a month ago, we returned to work after a handful of our Republican colleagues forced the shutdown of our government. The shutdown jeopardized our economic recovery and unnecessarily caused great hardship to thousands of hard working Americans.

While most of our government was shutdown and hundreds of thousands of federal workers sent home without pay, the American people could rest assured knowing that the NRC continued its 24/7 oversight of our nation’s nuclear power plants, ensuring that at least two inspectors were present at all times at each facility. We thank you for your leadership during this challenging period and thank the NRC employees for their service and for making nuclear safety the overriding priority.

As we enjoy the promises of nuclear energy and work constantly to ensure that safety is its cornerstone, the catastrophe at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant in 2011 was not only devastating to the Japanese people, but it remains a powerful reminder of the need to remain ever vigilant in pursuing nuclear safety here and around the world. 

While Japan works to stabilize the Fukushima plant, the NRC is engaged in a thorough process to identify any lessons learned from this tragic event and make the necessary changes to have a more fortified nuclear energy fleet moving forward.  Already, I know much has been done by the NRC and the nuclear energy industry. I look forward to hearing about the progress you have made in implementing the recommendations of the NRC’s near term Task Force. 

Beyond the Fukushima challenges, the nuclear industry continues to face old challenges, as well as some new ones, that I’m interested in hearing about today as well.  Two challenges that immediately come to mind are emergency preparedness and nuclear waste confidence.

On emergency preparedness – I’m reminded that just last year my home state and others along the East Coast were hit with one of the largest storms we’ve seen in this country: Superstorm Sandy.  Unfortunately, scientists tell us these types of storms are expected to be the norm, not the outlier.  That’s why today I’m interested in hearing an update on our nuclear plants that were hit by Superstorm Sandy and what is being done to ensure our nuclear plants around the country are prepared to withstand more violent weather. 

On waste confidence – I realize that because our country continues to grapple with national waste policy, our nuclear power plants have been required to hold nuclear spent fuel at their facilities much longer than expected. The NRC is in the process of updating the regulations for the long-term storage of this spent fuel and cannot make new decisions on licensing or relicensing until this process is complete.  I’m interested in hearing how that process is going and how quickly we shall see this issue resolved.  

Moving forward, I want to reiterate my hope that the NRC continues to talk to stakeholders and get public input – from all sides of issues – as it makes progress on the various initiatives on its plate. I believe our nuclear power plants are some of the safest in the world – but with the challenges before us, we must work even harder to “keep our eye on the ball” when it comes to safety. 

I look forward to working with the Commission, my colleagues and the nuclear industry to ensure that safety continues to be our number one priority.