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were soon in legal trouble themselves -- one on drug charges and two for receiving kickbacks.
If the NRC can shut down a nuclear power plant because employees were sleeping on the job, how can it justify failing to even investigate multiple reports of drug and alcohol abuse? If the NRC can perceive that employees falling asleep represents such an immediate threat to safety, how can it refuse to clearly require that utilities report to the NRC if a plant operator was found drunk at the control panel? And how can the NRC tie its own hands and effectively preclude enforcement action against a utility which has failed to take preventive measures to protect against drug and alcohol abuse? This inconsistency in approach hardly contributes to the credibility of the NRC. Though drug and alcohol abuse at nuclear power plants and the NRC's treatment (or non-treatment) of the problem is only one of the subject areas of today's hearing, it is obviously an important issue. We will also address other notable examples of the NRC's coziness with the industry it is supposed to be regulating at arms length, and the NRC's resistance to independent and objective investigations of its licensees.
To ensure that the nuclear industry is strong, we must be honest with ourselves. We must not be afraid to draw a clear line between the regulator and the regulated. We must demand that the regulator be the one who determines the standards to which the industry must comply and must take appropriately tough
action for failure to meet those standards. In the long run, the
NRC is not doing the nuclear industry any favors if it is lax in
Finally, we must not be afraid to have truly independent
One final note. It is my intention as Chairman to swear in all witnesses who come before this Subcommittee. While this has not been the past practice in this Committee, it is not my intention by this policy to impugn the integrity of any of today's witnesses or any others who may appear before us in the future. My intention is to avoid the type of problems that have recently come to light in the Iran-Contra hearings. We have
provided a copy of the Committee's rules to each of today's witnesses.
Mr. GEJDENSON. Before we do that, I have been instructed that I can't overlook my minority friends here. Mr. SMITH. Sam, I would hope not. Mr. Chairman, I absolutely agree with your decision to swear in all witnesses. I think it is one of the things in my 6% years here that is most frustrating to me, to find out later that something said was maybe not exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I think we do a great service to the American public for the time and money invested in this type of effort to try and find out exactly what the truth is. By swearing in anyone, we should have obviously already achieved the truth, but I think this just provides a little impetus. I wish that all committees in the Congress would do the same thing, and I think that this is a trend-setter that might bode well. I think there are a lot of things we can look at in the nuclear industry. I am always appalled at how many people work for the NRC, and their lack of responsiveness to really try and provide an energy independence for this Nation. So we look forward to examining the Commission and how it operates in this oversight hearIng. I also want to state that it is a pleasure to serve on this subcommittee because of the fact that too often we legislate and don’t ever look back and see what has resulted from the wide open policies that we provide for the regulators within the original charter of any kind of an independent body. o I commend you again on swearing in the witnesses. I am sure all of the Commission who have sworn an oath of duty to the Constitution are pleased to be able to do that and are pleased to be able to be here, and we welcome you, gentlemen. Mr. GEJDENSON. Mr. Miller. Mr. MILLER. I would like to commend you for holding these hearings. I think they are not only timely, but also terribly important. I have read some of the testimony that will be presented to the committee this morning, as well as testimony that was recently presented to the Senate Governmental Operations Committee. I must say that I have become increasingly disturbed about the NRC's commitment to the strongest possible safety standards for nuclear powerplants in this country. I hope that this hearing will be the first of many so that we can finally set this right. It is not a happy occasion for me because some 13 years ago, when I first came to the Congress, we were conducting hearings on these exact topics. We were told then that the issues of drug abuse, of alcohol abuse, and substance abuse would be taken care of by the then Commissioners. We now find ourselves back here asking the same questions and raising the same issues of liability and the same issues of concern among our constituents. I must say again that at those early hearings we were told that the Commission could handle the problems of harassment of inspectors, both by contractors within the industry and within the NRC. This morning we find that, like our counterparts in the Senate, we are asking the same questions and raising the same problems. I suspect at some point we are going to have to change the makeup of the Commission because apparently, even with all of the promises of good faith efforts and notions of change that have taken place within the Commission, change simply has not happened, and the activities have continued.
After 13 years of watching this, I have grown tired of it. I think it is time that this committee seriously consider legislative changes within the NRC to build in the kind of accountability and independence that can convey a sense of security and trust to the American people. Industry must also get out from underneath the constant, constant cloud of suspicion and mistrust. This committee must now see whether we can in fact help the industry do what it is supposed to do: generate electricity for American consumers.
That service simply has not happened. In my own State of California we have been party to very prolonged battles over not only the construction but also the operation of these facilities. I think we have not served the public well to date.
So, Mr. Chairman, with you as the new chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee, knowing your vigorous style, I look forward to participating with you in a very complete and detailed set of hearings on the oversight of the NRC.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Miller follows:
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE GEORGE MILLER before the
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Mr. Chairman. I would like to commend you for holding these oversight hearings on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The hearings are coming at a particularly important time.
Congress is presently considering a number of issues relating to both the nuclear industry and to the energy needs of this country.
Just recently, the House Interior Committee reported out legislation extending the Price-Anderson Act. I anticipate that reauthorization of this program will be the subject of heated debate on the House floor and that a number of issues we raised in committee will be revisited on the floor.
As we move ahead on this and other issues, the performance of the
NRC and the safety of the industry are critical components of the debate.
As I read through the testimony for this hearing, as well as that presented in the recent hearings before the Senate Government Operations Committee, I found myself becoming increasingly disturbed about the NRC's commitment to and enforcement of the strongest possible safety standards for nuclear power plants.
Let me say at the outset that I am not anti-nuclear. But, like most people in this country, I worry about what a nuclear accident will mean. We got a hint of how terrible it could be with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. We read report after report of problems at one nuclear plant or another. It is essential -- because of the potentially massive consequences of a nuclear incident -- that the strongest possible safety standards be applied to this industry.
Yet, as I read the testimony, I find that at least some power plants are plagued with drinking and drug abuse problems. I find the NRC does not have an enforceable rule covering the "fitness for duty" programs of utilities. All we have to do is recall the recent wreck of the Amtrak train between here and New York. It appears the engineer may have been under the influence of drugs. The loss of life in that wreck was tragic, but no where near what it will be if a nuclear plant gets out of control the way the train did.