WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) today received the nuclear energy industry's top individual award. Inhofe was presented with the William S. Lee Award for Leadership at the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) annual conference here.
"Senator James Inhofe is an outstanding leader," NEI Chairman Christian Poindexter said in presenting the Tulsa native with the Lee Award. "He has dedicated his life to public service-in the Army, in the Oklahoma State House and Senate, as mayor of Tulsa, in the U.S. House and, since 1994, in the U.S. Senate."
Poindexter, the chairman and chief executive officer of Constellation Energy, cited Inhofe's background as a small businessman as a formative element of his governing philosophy. During the five years that he served as chairman of the Senate subcommittee with purview over nuclear safety, Inhofe held the first congressional oversight hearings of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 14 years.
He played a key role in accelerating the agency's move to a risk-informed regulatory approach that culminated in April 2000 with the NRC's implementation industrywide of a new reactor oversight process. The new process-supported by the industry and nuclear watchdog groups alike-more effectively focuses agency and industry resources on power plant aspects with the greatest safety significance. An added benefit of the new process is its transparency, in that it makes more current information on every plant's safety performance accessible to the public more readily than the old oversight process did.
"Senator Inhofe strongly endorsed the concepts underlying regulatory reform. He emphasized the need for prompt action because of nuclear energy's importance and gave the NRC the support it needed to move forward with change during an era of regulatory re-invention," Poindexter said.
Inhofe also has exhibited his support for nuclear energy's place in a diverse U.S. energy portfolio by co-sponsoring legislation that, most recently, includes the National Energy Security Act of 2001, and introducing the Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 2000.
"As a small businessman himself for 30 years, and as a general aviation pilot, he is one of the few members of the Senate who has been on the receiving end of the regulatory system," Poindexter said. "In assuming the chairman's role, Senator Inhofe examined the old regulatory oversight process, drawing on his experience as a businessman, with a pragmatic eye. He found the time was right for reform in the regulatory oversight process…A stronger Commission has emerged, and a revised oversight process with a new and sharper focus on issues of safety significance."
The William S. Lee Award for Industry Leadership, formerly the Chairman's Award, was renamed in Lee's honor following his death in 1996. Lee, who was one of the industry's most vocal safety advocates in the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, was serving as chairman emeritus of Duke Power Co. when he died. Lee was a recipient of the industry's leadership award in 1995.
Inhofe was first elected to the Senate in 1994. He previously served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Oklahoma's First Congressional District. In the Senate, he is a member of the Armed Services Committee, the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Intelligence Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee.
Active in aviation, Inhofe became the only member of Congress to fly an airplane around the world when he recreated Wiley Post's legendary trip around the globe. Inhofe has been married to his wife, Kay, for 41 years and has four grown children and eight grandchildren.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org .