WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday she will leave the agency in January, capping a two-year tenure during which she sought to return calm to an agency once split by clashes over Yucca Mountain and other controversies.
Allison Macfarlane said she plans to join George Washington University as director of its Center for International Science and Technology Policy.
President Barack Obama will appoint a new chairman from among the commission’s remaining four members. Or he could designate the person he is expected to nominate as a replacement for Macfarlane, a Democrat.
It is unlikely a replacement will be named and confirmed by the Senate before next year, although Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could try to push one through this fall during a post-election lame-duck session.
“I came to the Commission with the mission of righting the ship after a tumultuous period for the Commission, and ensuring that the agency implemented lessons learned from the tragic accident at Fukushima Daiichi, so that the American people can be confident that such an accident will never take place here,” Macfarlane said in a statement.
NRC leaders clashed over previous Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s handling of the agency’s response to the 2011 deadly nuclear power accident in Japan, and what they described as an abrasive management style generally.
The agency also split when Jaczko acted in 2010 to halt the NRC’s handling of a license application for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Jaczko previously had served as an adviser to Reid, D-Nev., the leading Yucca foe.
Jaczko resigned in July 2012, and Macfarlane, a geologist by training who had familiarity with the Yucca project, was selected by Reid and Obama to replace him as head of the agency and its five-member governing board.
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