Opening Statement of Chairman Bingaman
“The purpose of today’s hearing is to get testimony on three bills: S. 512, which is the Nuclear Power 2021 Act, a bill introduced by myself with Senator Murkowski; S. 1067, the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act, Senator Mark Udall introduced, and Senator Murkowski and I have co-sponsored; and S. 937, which is the American Alternative Fuels Act of 2011, introduced by Senator Barrasso.
“We want to thank the witnesses for testifying today. We have two New Mexicans here: Deputy Assistant Secretary John Kelly, from the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, who spent many years at Sandia National Laboratory, and Mr. Joe Colvin, who is on our second panel, the President of the American Nuclear Society, who now resides in Santa Fe but is well known in Washington as the former President and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute. So I welcome you all today.
“Small nuclear reactors, those that are less than 300 megawatts, hold the promise of reducing the costs of nuclear plant construction. Proponents claim these reactors can utilize modular construction techniques such that plant subassemblies can be built and assembled on site, thus reducing the construction costs. Large nuclear plant costs are a major issue where 2,000 MW plants exceed $14 billion. In addition, advocates believe that the small size makes it applicable to the chemical industry for process heat, thus minimizing carbon dioxide emissions.
“The two nuclear bills before us today establish research programs to reduce the cost of construction using small reactors as well as authorizing two cost-shared demonstrations to license before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There are many opinions on the merits of these reactors and we look forward to the witnesses’ comments on the legislation before us.
“We will also hear testimony on S.937, the American Alternative Fuels Act, which Senator Barrasso, along with Committee Member Sens. Murkowski, Manchin, and Coats co-sponsored, which includes a number of provisions that would seek to increase our use of transportation fuels that do not come from petroleum. I am glad that my colleagues are thinking about ways that we can continue on our current trajectory by relying less on petroleum to fuel the transportation sector. Diversifying our transportation fuels is a clear benefit to our national and economic security.
“I am, however, concerned that some of the provisions in S.937 might have high environmental costs. I hope that we can focus on ways to enhance national, economic and environmental security simultaneously, and avoid policies that might sacrifice any one kind of security in pursuit of another.
“I have an additional concern that some of the provisions in S.937 are clearly beyond the jurisdiction of our Committee. Some of the topics covered in the bill are squarely within this Committee’s expertise and jurisdiction. Others, such as long-term contracting authority for the Department of Defense and reassessing ‘best available control technology’ under the Clean Air Act, are not. In my view, it would not be appropriate for us to circumvent the Committees that do have jurisdiction on issues for which those Committees’ expertise would be valuable.
“Thank you all for being here today and I look forward to the testimony.”
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