NSPE Comments to the Blue Ribbon Commission
My name is Michael Hardy. I am President of the National Society of Professional Engineers, an organization that represents 45,000 licensed professional engineers across all disciplines. I appreciate the opportunity to comment before the Blue Ribbon Commission today.
NSPE believes that the United States should lead the world in the advancement and use of nuclear power. Green, clean, renewable nuclear power systems will be an important component in our efforts to reduce our nation's reliance on foreign oil and the releases of harmful pollutants.
The nuclear energy industry has an excellent safety record, thanks in part to strict regulation, comprehensive safety planning, and rigorous training and qualification standards for employees. Nuclear power's great potential, however, is accompanied by the risk of disaster. Though unlikely, an accident at a nuclear facility would cause serious harm to people, their livelihoods, and the environment. Improper storage of spent radioactive fuel would also endanger the public health and safety.
NSPE believes that licensed professional engineers should have direct supervision over all engineering design, operations, and maintenance decisions at nuclear power plants. Professional engineers are licensed by the government, which requires them to meet and maintain an acceptable standard of competence. Professional engineers are also bound by a code of ethics to make decisions only in their areas of expertise. Most critically, professional engineers are ethically obligated to protect public health and safety above all other concerns.
Safety can be compromised when employees feel compelled to put loyalty to their employer before ethics. Professional engineers are unique in two ways: First, professional engineers are accountable to the state that licensed them, ensuring that a professional engineer's loyalty is to the public, not an employer. Like doctors and attorneys, professional engineers depend on their license to practice; and losing that license would ruin a professional engineer's reputation and end his or her career. Continued licensure carries far more weight than continued employment at one company.
Second, when professional engineers make decisions, they are taking full, personal responsibility for those decisions. Professional engineers sign and seal plans as individuals, and they take singular responsibility for the soundness of those plans. This sense of personal responsibility renders professional engineers impervious to outside pressure and motivates them to maintain the highest safety standards.
Because of their proven competence and commitment to public health and safety, NSPE recommends that nuclear power plants employ professional engineers to supervise all engineering design, operations, and maintenance decisions. This will help the nuclear energy industry preserve its strong safety record and minimize the potential for disaster.Thank you.