President Barack Obama will renominate U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, a Republican, drawing opposition from the Senate’s top Democrat.
Obama doesn’t want to have a break in service when Svinicki’s term on the five-member commission ends in June, White House spokesman Jay Carney said today.
The Senate will act “when we have to” after hearings, Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said today at a news conference. Reid opposes her renomination, a spokesman said.
Svinicki, 45, has criticized NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, a former science adviser to Reid. She also has complained about the commission’s effort to shut a nuclear-waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which Reid opposes.
Reid opposes Svinicki because she wasn’t forthcoming with Congress in 2007 about her work on the Yucca project, Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, said today in an e-mail.
The renomination “would be a good thing” and any delay is “inexplicable,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said today at a Washington news conference. The nomination may be held up “because Commissioner Svinicki confronted the chairman over his abusive behavior,” McConnell said.
Republicans including Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska called for Svinicki to be renominated quickly. Senator Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also backs her renomination.
Silence a ‘Whistle-Blower’
Opponents “should not be trying to silence a whistle-blower,” Barrasso said.
Senator Barbara Boxer, during a June 16 Senate hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee she leads, said it was “troubling” that Svinicki had misrepresented her work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste dump when testifying at her 2007 confirmation hearing. Boxer said Svinicki said she didn’t work on the project. Documents later showed she was assigned as an Energy Department employee to study which radioactive materials could be stored at the site, Boxer said. Svinicki said at last year’s hearing that she disagreed with Boxer’s interpretation.
The Senate also held hearings last year after Svinicki and her colleagues wrote Obama to say Jaczko created a “chilled work environment” by berating employees and withholding information, charges that he denied. The agency’s watchdog also faulted the chairman’s actions.
Jaczko “was not forthcoming with the other commissioners about his intent to stop work” on the Nevada waste dump, according to a June report from the NRC inspector general. Jaczko, a former science adviser to Reid, an opponent of the Yucca project, has said he acted within the law.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Republicans, also held hearings on the dispute.
Svinicki took office on March 28, 2008, filling one of two seats reserved for the Republicans. Commissioner William Ostendorff is the other Republican. The chairman of the five-member panel is the same party as the president.