Boxer Slams Nuclear Commission for Post-Fukushima Foot-Dragging

“Madam chairman, I’d like to hear from the commissioner on where they are in the process,” Vitter said.

“Well, I’m running out of time, so you can ask her on your time,” Boxer said.

Shortly thereafter, with Boxer once again badgering Macfarlane, this time over San Onofre, Vitter interjected once again.

“Madam chairman, will you let our witnesses answer your question?” Vitter said. “I mean, the way it normally works is you get to ask the question, but they do get to answer.”

Boxer grew weary of Vitter’s interruptions.

“Excuse me,” she said at one point, gaveling him down. “When you have this gavel, you make the rules.”

For his part, Vitter maintained that the nation’s fleet of nuclear power plants has “a long track record of safety” and that members of Congress “should not be committed to regulating just for the sake of regulating.”

“Such a mindset results in economic hardship and a diminished capacity for our energy sector to meet the needs of this nation,” he said.

Vitter suggested there exists a “subversive effort to cripple the nuclear industry,” asserting that Obama administration actions like nixing the proposed Yucca Mountain waste storage facility in Nevada and a new rule for cooling water intake systems represent “a clear example of a long-term strategy to shut down more of our nation’s nuclear reactors.”

“I firmly believe that nuclear energy should play a role in meeting our domestic energy needs,” Vitter said. “However, I am concerned that Senate Democrats are using these hearings to provide cover for their efforts to kill nuclear generation in their own states, which has only served to decrease the output and capacity of our nation’s reliable nuclear reactor fleet. Ironically, these shutdowns will increase greenhouse gas emissions as states struggle to find other baseload power.”

Efforts to force the NRC to promulgate regulations that offer no real safety gains “is a classic example of the sprawling big government mindset that persists in Washington,” he said.

Calls for stronger safety efforts at the nation’s nuclear power facilities came after the Fukushima nuclear plant failed as the result of a 45-foot tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, resulting in the greatest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, in Ukraine, in 1986.

The task force appointed in wake of the incident recommended, among other things, enhancing the ability of facilities to maintain safety during the loss of electrical power, looking into the impact of floods and earthquakes on the plants, and determining ways to confine or filter radioactive materials if a core has been damaged.