NRC Chief to Leave Agency for College Teaching Post

Allison Macfarlane, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for just over two years, will leave at the end of this year to return to teaching, taking a post at George Washington University.

Macfarlane, a geologist and environmental science professor before taking the job in July 2012, is stepping down with more than three years remaining in her term. President Barack Obama will name a replacement to head the nuclear safety agency.

“I am looking forward to returning to my academic research and to training a new generation of leaders in science and technology policy,” Macfarlane, 50, said yesterday in a statement.

During Macfarlane’s tenure, the NRC directed owners of the 100 generating power units to upgrade facilities, including the ability to operate during power outages, in response to the 2011 triple nuclear meltdown in Japan. Macfarlane has sought to refute rumors that radioactive waste from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station floated to the U.S. shores.

Republican lawmakers have pushed her to get a permanent nuclear storage site opened at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, opposed to that plan, Yucca never got final approval during the Obama administration.

‘With Grace’

“Considering the NRC’s tumultuous past and the political pressure she was under, Chairman Macfarlane handled a tough leadership situation at the NRC with grace,” Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, top Republican on the environmental and public works committee that oversees the NRC, said in a statement. Still she “was pushed to undermine the industry and implement unnecessary regulations.”

Beginning in January, Macfarlane will lead the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University in Washington. Macfarlane succeeded Gregory Jaczko, who quit in 2012 after colleagues criticized his management style and accused him of verbally abusing female employees.

Macfarlane was an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, before Obama nominated her to replace Jaczko. She was confirmed by the Senate without opposition.

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