Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Challenges Facing NRC in Effectively Carrying Out Its Mission Page: 3 of 23
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to participate in the Subcommittee's
oversight hearing on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). NRC has
the regulatory responsibility to ensure that the nation's 103 operating
commercial nuclear power plants are operated in a safe and secure
manner. These plants provide about 20 percent of the country's electricity,
but safety of their operations is paramount, given the potentially
devastating effects of a nuclear accident. While the nuclear power
industry's overall safety record has been good, safety issues periodically
arise that raise questions about NRC's regulation and oversight of the
industry and challenge its credibility for guaranteeing the safety of the
nation's aging fleet of nuclear power plants. NRC plays an important role
in protecting public health and the environment through its regulation of
the nuclear power industry and other civilian use of nuclear material, and
we commend the Subcommittee for holding this hearing.
NRC was formed in 1975, to regulate the various commercial and
institutional uses of nuclear energy, including nuclear power plants. NRC's
mission is to regulate the nation's civilian use of nuclear material to ensure
adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common
defense and security, and to protect the environment. NRC's activities
include, among other things, licensing nuclear reactors (including license
transfers and operating experience evaluation), reviewing plant safety
procedures, imposing enforcement sanctions for violations of NRC
requirements, and participating in homeland security efforts (including
threat assessment, emergency response, mitigating strategies, security
inspections, and force-on-force exercises). NRC also has regulatory
oversight for the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, including
accumulating sufficient funds to carry out decommissioning, and for the
interim storage of spent nuclear fuel - the used fuel periodically removed
from reactors in nuclear power plants.
The importance of NRC's regulatory and oversight responsibilities is made
readily apparent by recent events. The terrorist attacks on September 11,
2001, and the subsequent discovery of nuclear power plants on a list of
possible terrorist targets have focused attention on the security of the
nation's commercial nuclear power plants. Safety concerns were
heightened by the discovery of a pineapple-sized cavity in the carbon steel
reactor vessel head, and subsequent 2-year shutdown, of the Davis-Besse
nuclear power plant in Ohio in 2002. Additional safety concerns were
raised by the discovery of missing or unaccounted for spent nuclear fuel at
three nuclear power plants. Further, the decommissioning of some of the
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Challenges Facing NRC in Effectively Carrying Out Its Mission, text, May 26, 2005; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc292492/m1/3/: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.