WASHINGTON — A Senate staff member who worked on Yucca Mountain issues for an Idaho senator will be nominated to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the White House announced Monday.
Kristine L. Svinicki worked on nuclear issues as senior policy adviser to Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, from 1997 to 2005. Craig is a leading supporter of the proposed Nevada nuclear waste repository.
Earlier in her career, Svinicki served as a nuclear engineer in the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, the Energy Department office that manages the Yucca project, according to the White House.
The Energy Department declined to disclose information about Svinicki’s work on the Yucca project, such as her dates of employment, her job assignment and whether she worked at the site of the proposed nuclear waste dump, in Las Vegas or elsewhere.
DOE spokesman Allen Benson said questions about Svinicki should be directed to the White House.
Svinicki is a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, specializing in nuclear weapons issues.
She could not be reached for comment.
Svinicki, who lives in Virginia, would replace Jeffrey Merrifield on the five-member NRC board if confirmed by the Senate. Merrifield is a Republican appointee whose term expires later this year.
If confirmed, Svinicki would serve on a term that runs until 2012. Barring further delays in the Yucca program, the term is expected to coincide with the NRC’s consideration of an Energy Department application to license nuclear waste storage at a site 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
“She is one of the sharpest minds in the nuclear policy world,” said Dan Whiting, communication director for Craig. “Hopefully the Senate leaders will move quickly” on confirmation.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who usually exerts influence on all things dealing with Yucca Mountain in Congress, “intends to watch her confirmation hearing process closely,” spokesman Jon Summers said.
Bob Loux, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, said Svinicki’s past involvement with the Yucca project could be troubling.
“We would rather see someone who hadn’t had ties to Yucca Mountain but we would like to know more about her,” Loux said.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Svinicki started her career as an energy engineer for the State of Wisconsin Public Service Commission, according to the White House.