(Extensions of Remarks - September 18, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1333]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                             HON. LEE TERRY

                              of nebraska

                    in the house of representatives

                     Wednesday, September 18, 2013

  Mr. TERRY. Mr. Speaker, one of our most important responsibilities 
here in Congress is oversight of executive branch agencies. Such 
oversight illuminates flaws either in the structure or the conduct of 
these agencies that sometimes requires legislative action. Today, I am 
speaking for just such a reason.
  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had operated with acceptable 
performance for quite some time until a few years ago when a new 
chairman took over the leadership of the agency in 2009. Unlike his 
predecessors, this chairman did not seek to work collegially with his 
fellow Commission members, but sought to consolidate and expand his 
authority as chairman. This abuse of power led to multiple 
investigations by Congressional committees and the NRC's Inspector 
  In 1980, during Congress' consideration of President Carter's 
proposal to reorganize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Members 
raised concerns about the potential for just such an abuse by a rogue 
chairman: namely that the President's plan concentrated too much 
authority in the chairmanship of the agency.
  I believe it is incumbent upon us, as Members of Congress, to 
exercise our legislative responsibility and address this situation.
  For that purpose, my colleagues Mr. Barton, Mr. Burgess and Mr. 
Kenzinger, and I are introducing the ``Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
Reorganization Plan Codification and Complements Act.''
  Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the President and 
the Congress saw the need to improve the NRC's ability to respond to an 
accident. President Carter responded by proposing the ``Reorganization 
Plan of 1980'' to strengthen the power of the chairmanship by 
consolidating administrative and emergency authorities. A little known 
artifact of this history is that the 1980 Plan was subsequently 
approved by Congress as a resolution, not enacted as a law. Our bill 
would correct that artifact by seeking to codify a modern version of 
the 1980 Plan while limiting the potential for a chairman to abuse his 
authority as I described a moment ago.
  While the Fukushima accident happened on foreign soil, the then-NRC 
chairman exercised emergency authority--authority reserved for 
emergencies within the NRC's jurisdiction--without making a declaration 
and without adequate reporting of his actions. Clearly, there must be 
clear operating authority and accountability in an emergency, including 
a declaration and termination of any special authority. This bill 
clarifies those requirements.
  If the NRC chairman is the subject of an investigation by the 
Inspector General as a result of allegations of wrongdoing, the 
Inspector General should not remain under the chairman's supervision. 
This bill would require delegation of that supervisory responsibility 
to another member of the Commission.
  These are just a few examples of the provisions in this bill. This is 
about good government. While the current NRC chairman worked to 
reestablish collegiality at the Commission, I believe we must act to 
preclude future leadership breakdowns akin to her predecessor. These 
are common sense changes to ensure the proper conduct of the people's 
business at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I look forward to 
working with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion toward passage of 
this bill into law.