In a bow to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the White House said on Thursday that President Obama plans to nominate Allison Macfarlane, an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The announcement came just three days after Gregory Jaczko, a former aide to Reid, revealed that he would step down as NRC chairman as soon as a replacement is named by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Jaczko has been at the center of a growing controversy since late last year when the other four NRC commissioners challenged his management style.
Macfarlane is a well-known critic of the now-defunct nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada that Reid fought vigorously to shut down after more than a decade of studies and construction. She also served on the Obama administration's blue-ribbon panel that issued a report in January on finding solutions for storing the nation's spent nuclear fuel.
Reid, who unsuccessfully tried to get Macfarlane a seat on the NRC in 2007, immediately issued a statement of support for her nomination as Jaczko's successor.
"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," Reid said. "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."