Inhofe Opening Statement at EPW Hearing on the Re-nomination of Allison Macfarlane to be a Member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

As prepared for delivery:

"Chairwoman MacFarlane, I appreciate you appearing before the committee today.

"First, I must thank you for restoring congeniality at the NRC.  From what I understand, the working environment of the commission and its staff has significantly improved under your leadership, and for that you should be commended.

"One of the most exciting developments over the past few years has been the tremendous expansion of oil and gas drilling.  Where many believed we would become a major natural gas importer and continue to import the vast majority of our oil, we are now in a position to become a natural gas exporter and become fully self-sufficient in our oil production.

"But when I talk about energy independence, I’m not just talking about oil and gas production.  Nuclear energy is, without question, one of our most important assets, and if the United States pursues a lackluster nuclear policy, then it may be impossible for us to achieve this important, bipartisan goal.

"Unfortunately, the future of American nuclear energy faces many of the same hurdles as the oil and gas industry, and one of the key threats is overregulation by the government.  As with oil and gas, producers are facing major regulatory hurdles to mine uranium and other feedstocks; many federal lands have been ruled off-limits by the current administration, despite a long, proven track record for extracting the minerals in an environmentally safe way.  And as we are all well aware, there have also been major hurdles to establishing a long-term depository for nuclear waste. 

"Some of the threats to the industry also come from your commission.  And this has occurred most recently in the aftermath of the Fukushima event.  While several emergency orders were warranted and justifiable, such as addressing issues like extreme natural events and measuring for seismic risks, others were not.  My main concern stems from the attempt to use emergency orders to impose a costly filtered vents requirement without adequately considering the cost-benefits, appropriate risks, or differences in U.S. and Japanese regulatory practices.  These actions, and several of the statements you made to justify your decisions, make me wonder whether you are approaching the job with a bias that the industry is unsafe and that regular accidents are inevitable despite the industry’s remarkable track record over the past forty years. 

"The NRC has many important responsibilities that, handled correctly, will actually accelerate our ability to achieve and maintain energy independence.  The NRC has a tremendous historical record of working well with industry and balancing the needs of public safety and a workable regulatory environment.  If you are confirmed, it is my hope that you will continue to ensure the nuclear energy industry remains vibrant in the United States for many generations to come.

"Again, thank you for being here today.  I would like to ask you some questions about your vote on the filtered vents issue being based on the perspective of Greenpeace and whether you will respect the court’s final decision on Yucca Mountain, but I may have to leave early.  If I’m not able to ask you those questions, would you answer them in the record?"