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Changes at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

July 5, 2012

The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Dr. Allison MacFarlane to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the remainder of outgoing Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s term.  PSR has supported Dr. MacFarlane for the new position based on her record of support for on-site dry cask storage of nuclear waste and her critical analysis of the Yucca Mountain project.  We expect that she will bring her sensible approach to safety and her enthusiasm for transparency, accountability, and public consent to the NRC, where it is certainly needed. 

In this instance we must also say goodbye to Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who in his eight years on the Commission has consistently pushed for public safety and served as an independent and rigorous regulator.  Would that we had five Jaczkos on the NRC, then we might see more focus on public safety in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. 

Finally, on a negative note, Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has been reappointed to a second term on the NRC.  We have shared numerous concerns with her nomination including her dogged placement of nuclear industry desires over public safety needs. 

One hopes that these changes at the NRC will lead to more cooperation and less dysfunction, but most importantly, more focus on the key public safety mission of the organization.  In particular, the NRC must take action on the lessons of the Fukushima disaster and as well as honestly and adequately dealing with the nuclear waste problem, as exemplified in the District Court smack down of the ‘waste confidence’ doctrine.

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