President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate Allison Macfarlane to be U.S. Nuclear Regulatory (NRC) commissioner and to designate her as NRC chair upon her appointment. Macfarlane is an associate professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University (GMU), a position she has held since 2006. Macfarlane served as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future from March 2010 to January 2012.
Macfarlane received a B.Sc. from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in Geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She co-authored an article titled “Nuclear proliferation: Time to bury plutonium,” which appears in the May 9, 2012, edition of Nature.
Macfarlane would serve the remainder of current NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko’s term, which is set to expire at the end of June 2013. This past Monday, May 21, Jaczko announced that he would resign his position as soon as his successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
This nomination will join President Obama’s nomination of NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki for a second five-year term in awaiting action by the U.S. Senate. Svinicki’s current term is set to expire at the end of June 2012. On May 14, the American Nuclear Society issued a statement urging the U.S. Senate to act promptly on Ms. Svinicki’s nomination so that there is no interruption in her service.
Immediate reactions to the Macfarlane nomination
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) issued the following statement:
I am confident that like her predecessor, Dr. Allison Macfarlane will make preserving the safety and security of American citizens her top priority as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Macfarlane’s education and experience, in particular her service on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, make her eminently qualified to lead the NRC for the foreseeable future. The nuclear industry has a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to safety by supporting Dr. Macfarlane’s nomination.
I continue to have grave concerns about Kristine Svinicki’s record on the commission. But I believe the best interests of the public would be served by moving the nominations of Dr. Macfarlane and Ms. Svinicki together before Ms. Svinicki’s term expires at the end of June, to ensure that we have a fully functioning NRC. Republicans claim to share that goal, and I hope they will work with us to make it a reality.
Marv Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, issued the following statement:
The nuclear energy industry congratulates Professor Macfarlane on her selection by the president. She has been an active contributor to policy debates in the nuclear energy field for many years.
Given the importance of having a fully functioning, five-member commission to carry out the NRC’s safety mission, the nuclear energy industry urges the administration to submit her confirmation paperwork as expeditiously as possible. It would not serve the public interest to have her nomination linger with the term of Commissioner Kristine Svinicki set to expire at the end of June. We urge the Senate to confirm both Commissioner Svinicki and Professor Macfarlane expeditiously.
The NRC must continue to be an effective, credible regulator if the nation is to maximize nuclear energy’s role in achieving America’s economic growth and energy security.