Reid won't block nominee for NRC post

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will not stand in the way of a new term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for William Ostendorff, a central figure in the agency's debate over Yucca Mountain, a spokesman said Friday.

Ostendorff's term expires on June 30. There was speculation that Reid, the Senate majority leader, might object to a new five-year term because of the nominee's stance on the Nevada nuclear waste site.

Reid has decided not to block Ostendorff's confirmation, which could take place before the Senate recesses on July 1 for a week, spokesman Zac Petkanas said.

"Senator Reid has strong concerns about Commissioner Ostendorff's record on Yucca Mountain, which they discussed during a recent meeting," the spokesman said. "However, although Senator Reid has concerns about Mr. Ostendorff, he will not block his confirmation."

Petkanas added the NRC is a bipartisan commission, "and this is Senator (Mitch) McConnell's pick," referring to the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky.

The 18-member Senate Environment and Public Works Committee endorsed Ostendorff by a unanimous vote on June 9, providing further momentum for reconfirmation.

Ostendorff was one of the commissioners at the nuclear safety agency who disagreed with the decision by Chairman Gregory Jaczko last October to have staff stop working on a license review for the nuclear waste repository proposed to be built 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Consequently, the engineer and former Navy submarine commander has been seen as a "no" vote if the commissioners finalize a decision whether to allow the Obama administration to withdraw the license application and kill the project.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760.