Congressman Nadler Introduces Amendment to Protect Nuclear Safety Regulations from Republican Interference

Jan 5, 2017 Issues: Energy and Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced an amendment to stop Republicans from severely hampering important nuclear safety regulations as part of The REINS Act (H.R.26).  The Nadler Amendment would exempt regulations related to nuclear reactor safety from being curtailed by the Republican legislation.

Below is the full statement, as prepared, from Representative Nadler’s introduction of the Nadler Amendment to H.R.26, The REINS Act:

“Mr. Chairman, my amendment would exempt from the bill any regulations that pertain to nuclear reactor safety.  In other words, my amendment would allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the NRC, to continue to issue rules under the current system, thereby making it easier to protect Americans from nuclear disaster.

“The underlying legislation, “The REINS Act,” would grind the gears of rulemaking to a halt, by requiring all major rules to be affirmatively approved by Congress.  A regulation would be blocked from being implemented if even one chamber declines to pass an approval resolution.  The goal of this legislation, quite simply, is to stop the regulatory process in its tracks, regardless of its impact on public health and safety.

“One example that highlights the risks and dangers of this legislation is the subject of this amendment: nuclear power.

“The world watched in horror when an earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the area around Fukushima, Japan.  That disaster then caused its own disaster – the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.  The meltdown led to the release of radioactive isotopes, the creation of a 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the power plant, and the displacement of 156,000 people.

“Later that same year, Virginia was struck by a relatively rare, but strong, earthquake, felt up and down the eastern seaboard.  While the region was spared a similar disaster, the earthquake required a nuclear power plant near the epicenter to go offline as a precaution, and served as a wake-up call that our nuclear reactors needed additional safety protocols.

“For me, this concern hits close to home. A nuclear power plant, Indian Point, which has suffered numerous malfunctions in recent years, lies just less than 40 miles away from my New York City district.  There are 20 million people living within a 50-mile radius around the plant, the same radius used by the NRC as the basis for the evacuation zone recommended after the Fukushima disaster.  Indian Point also sits near two earthquake fault lines and, according to the NRC, is the most likely nuclear power plant in the country to experience core damage because of an earthquake.

“Because of the catastrophes that can result from disasters, be they natural or manmade, at nuclear power plants, prevention of meltdowns is absolutely vital.  Since Fukushima, the NRC has issued new rules designed to upgrade power plants to withstand severe events like earthquakes, and to have enough backup power so as to avoid a meltdown for a significant length of time.

“The NRC must have the ability to issue new regulations to safeguard the health and well-being of all Americans.  However, this bill is intentionally designed so that new and important regulations will likely never be put in place, thwarted by just one chamber of Congress.

“Congress delegates authority to executive agencies because we do not have the expertise to craft technical regulations ourselves.  We should defer to the engineers and scientists at the NRC who determine, after careful study, that a particular regulation is critical to our safety.  However, this bill would, all too easily, allow Members of Congress to substitute their own judgment or, most likely, the wishes of a narrow group of special interests.

“This week we began a new Congress, and later this month we will have a new Administration, all controlled by Republicans.  Between this bill and the Midnight Rules bill we considered yesterday, they have chosen to make their first order of business the dismantling and destruction of the regulatory process, regardless of the impact on public health and safety.  This gives us a good idea of the priorities we should expect to see out of the next two years.

“The least we can do is ensure that their anti-regulatory agenda does not have devastating consequences, like a nuclear meltdown.  I urge my colleagues to support the Nadler Amendment and to exempt nuclear safety regulations from the onerous requirements of the underlying bill.

“Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.”