WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Edward Markey introduced legislation on March 29 calling for a moratorium on new nuclear plant licensing activities. Following is a statement from Marvin Fertel, NEI president and chief executive officer.
"America's nuclear power plants are producing 20 percent of America's electricity at high safety levels. Rep. Markey's call for a moratorium ignores the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 90-day safety review and processes already in place in the licensing processes to review new information that may arise during new plant construction.
"The NRC chairman testified before a Senate committee today that U.S. nuclear plants are safe and secure, and it is 'very unlikely' that the combination of events in Japan earlier this month would occur in the United States. Nonetheless, the NRC is an independent regulator of the nuclear energy industry and therefore can require additional action by the industry as part of its licensing processes. Similarly, Congress has direct oversight of the NRC and has an established process to vet these issues before hastening to legislate changes to the licensing process.
"Safety has been, and always will be our industry's top priority. Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, U.S. companies that operate nuclear power plants have been reexamining their facilities and procedures they would take in similarly severe natural events to ensure that they have access to vital equipment in an emergency, and that personnel are well-trained in how to use it.
"License applications for new plants, reactor designs and license extension at existing reactors are comprehensive and undergo a rigorous examination by the NRC. Safe operation is the paramount consideration for approval. As is the practice of both the NRC and industry, we will take lessons learned from the events in Japan. We will also evaluate these lessons against our practices at America's nuclear energy facilities and take all appropriate actions to protect public safety and workers at our facilities."