Press Releases

Carper Holds Hearing to Examine Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Safety Record, Explores Ways to Improve Safety and Effectiveness

"We need to ensure that safety is the number one priority for the nuclear industry. if it isn't perfect, make it better."

May 05 2010

WASHINGTON, DC - Today Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, held a hearing to examine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) safety record and explore ways for the nuclear industry and the NRC to improve safety and effectiveness.  Sen. Carper was particularly interested in evaluating the NRC's efforts to meet its core principles of good regulation in its licensing of new reactors and in its oversight processes of the current nuclear fleet.

"Public confidence in the nuclear industry has grown over the past 30 years in large part because of the concerted effort by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry to improve their safety record," said Sen. Carper, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety.  "But despite holding one of the best safety records of any industry in the United States, there are always areas where there can be improvement in both safety and effectiveness.  As I like to say, if it isn't perfect, make it better. 

 

"My colleagues and I need to remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that safety is the number one priority for the nuclear industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and this hearing is an important part of that effort.  It is also our job to make certain that the NRC is a strong, independent, and effective regulator.  A regulator that acts decisively, that acts openly and transparently, that produces results and is worthy of the public's confidence.   I think we made a lot of progress in those efforts today but more work remains."

 

A copy of Senator Carper's opening statement as prepared for delivery follows:

 

 

We are here today to examine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to see if it is meeting its core principles of good regulation in its licensing of new reactors and in its oversight processes of the current nuclear fleet.

 

Over the past 30 years, the American public has dramatically shifted its views on nuclear energy. Every day, more Americans are recognizing that nuclear energy provides clean, reliable power AND provides good-paying American jobs. 

 

Public confidence in nuclear has risen because Americans have seen real, clean air benefits from nuclear power. Unlike coal-fired power plants, nuclear power does not emit dangerous air pollutants - such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury or carbon dioxide - which kill thousands of Americans every year. 

 

In fact, over the past 12 years the current nuclear fleet has prevented emissions of 8.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, 47.2 million tons of sulfur dioxide, and 18.9 million tons of nitrogen oxide into our nation's air. As our nation's energy demands grow, we are going to need more nuclear power to meet our clean air and climate goals. 

 

Public confidence in nuclear has also risen because Americans have seen real job opportunities from nuclear power. As we will hear today, America's nuclear manufacturers and vendors are growing high-quality American jobs, which produce parts, components, and services known for quality and safety around the world.  Building a new generation of nuclear power plants would create even more good-paying jobs.  According to an Idaho National Laboratory study, roughly 38,000 additional nuclear manufacturing jobs are expected to be created in this country from new nuclear power construction through 2020.

 

But the main reason that public confidence in the nuclear industry has grown over the past 30 years is safety. America's 104 operating nuclear reactors have become safer and more efficient over the past 30 years. 

 

Today, the nuclear industry has one of the best safety records of any industry in the United States. And much of that safety record is due to a change in culture within the nuclear industry and due to the diligence of the NRC. Every nuclear power plant site receives a minimum of 2,000 hours of inspections by the NRC personnel each year, paid for by the nuclear industry and by rate-payers. The nuclear industry also conducts its own independent testing and safety reviews. 

 

But as I like to say, if it isn't perfect, make it better. 

 

Today we will explore how we might make the NRC even more effective through the prism of the NRC's five founding principles of good regulation -- independence, openness, efficiency, clarity, and reliability.

 

As the oversight committee on nuclear safety, it is our job to make certain that safety is the number one priority for the nuclear industry and the NRC. It is also our job to make certain that the NRC remains a strong, independent, and effective regulator.  A regulator that acts decisively, that acts openly and transparently, that produces results and is worthy of the public's confidence."