President Barack Obama is nominating Allison Macfarlane, a professor and member of panel studying disposal of atomic wastes, to lead the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, replacing Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who is quitting.
Macfarlane, an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, was praised today by Democratic lawmakers and congratulated by the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the industry.
The nomination of Macfarlane, who received a doctorate in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, probably will be considered jointly with Republican Kristine Svinicki, whose term ends June 30 and has been re-nominated.
Macfarlane “is a highly regarded expert who was a member of the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, and has spent years analyzing nuclear issues while at George Mason University, Harvard University as well as at” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Jaczko, 41, announced May 21 that he intends to resign as soon as a successor is confirmed. His term expires in June 2013. Republicans in Congress have been pushing for a swift departure of Jaczko, who has been criticized by colleagues for his agency management and alleged mistreatment of NRC employees. Jaczko denies the allegations.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a joint confirmation hearing next month for Macfarlane and Svinicki, Chairman Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement.
“Allison Macfarlane’s background and experience demonstrate that she has the strong commitment to safety that is so needed in this post-Fukushima era,” Boxer said in a statement, referring to the Japanese disaster last year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who employed Jaczko as a science adviser, said in a statement that Macfarlane “will make preserving the safety and security of American citizens her top priority.”
Reid, an opponent of Svinicki, said the “best interests” of the nation are served by considering both nominations simultaneously.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in an interview that he didn’t anticipate Republicans would block a vote on Macfarlane, as long as Democratic leaders consider the nomination “in tandem” with Svinicki.
The Nuclear Energy Institute issued a statement that congratulated Macfarlane and urged the White House and Senate to expedite the nomination and confirmation process.
Macfarlane “has been an active contributor to policy debates in the nuclear energy field for many years,” NEI President Marvin Fertel said in an e-mail. “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.”
Macfarlane’s 2006 book, “Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste,” examined technical issues facing the waste disposal site. Reid and Obama oppose Yucca. Jaczko has been criticized for his handling of the project.