Senate confirms Yucca critic as NRC chairman

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Friday confirmed a nuclear waste expert and Yucca Mountain critic to become chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Allison Macfarlane, a geologist and environmental science professor at George Mason University, was the choice of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. She was approved without dissent.

Also approved was Kristine Svinicki, a Republican who will serve a second five-year term on the board of the agency, which regulates nuclear power plants and the handling of nuclear materials.

Macfarlane replaces Gregory Jaczko, who resigned last month after almost eight years as an NRC commissioner, the last three as chairman during a tumultuous period marked by conflicts with others on the five-member commission. Critics said he bullied colleagues and staffers with an abrasive management style, while defenders said he was targeted for criticism by the nuclear industry because of his aggressiveness on safety.

Jaczko, who worked as a Yucca Mountain adviser to Reid before joining the NRC, oversaw the agency winding down its review of the controversial Nevada nuclear waste site over the past few years. That become one of the issues that provoked criticism from project supporters in Congress.

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