1. ‘Jeff Baran has been a senior energy policy staffer for Rep. Henry Waxman and for the Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. NEI has provided an initial reaction to the announcement. Both men have been endorsed by Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Ed Markey, and Michael Mariotte of NIRS.’

    Henry Waxman, Ed Markey! You have to ask yourself, why keep appointing enemies of nuclear power to the NRC … and the answer seems obvious.

    Son gave up on getting a position in the nuclear power industry. Recently graduated with a ChemE + ‘focus’ (minor) in Nuclear Engineering. Got a job as a ChemE. Looking at something like this, it’s hard to argue it was a bad decision.

    1. The question remains, is this because Obama opposes nuclear energy, or because he is ignorant, not interested enough to make the time to come up to speed, and he’s just listening to the advice of Holdren. This could easily just be t he work of Holdren misleading Obama.

      I mention this, not because I want to defend Obama, but because if that is the case, there is some hope, that if someone with the money and power to get some face time with Obama (cough, NEI, cough), perhaps they could explain exactly how harmful Holdren’s advice has been to the nuclear industry that Obama claims to favor.

  2. I think it is worth pointing out, re: Iran, that the gov’t there and the Russians have agreed to build around 5 VVER reactors with the first one being at Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant where the Russians completed the old German reactor started decades ago and this is not providing power to the Iranian grid. The world advances and the US buries its head in the sand, sans Southern Company!

  3. Apostoakis did not “retire.” He wanted to be renominated. The president decided not to do so. His term expired June 30, and he vacated his seat.

    As for Burns, I find it almost comical that a number of groups are protesting that Bill Magwood has stayed on the Commission before starting his job as the new Director General of the OECD/NEA, but no one seems to mind that Steve Burns’ current job is head of the NEA’s legal affairs section. A litte racism intruding here, perhaps?

    1. He wanted to be renominated.


      This seems to merit a little more clarification. You don’t typically appoint someone to a position when they are seeking or have “announced their retirement” (NEI Magazine). I thought it was well understood that this was a long time coming, that Apostolakis was unhappy with some of the more political aspects of the job (preferring his time in academia), and that some of the Commissioners were no longer on very collegial terms after the long and contentious battles over style and substance and airing their dirty laundry in public. If he sought more of that … it seems contrary to some reports we have seen (and that he was quite unhappy in the job).

      It might also help explain why Obama is nominating someone who has a more extensive experience with the agency (a 33 year track record to draw on), and another with experience with NRC oversight committees (and positive relationships with several of the Committee members). It’s incredibly hard these days to get anyone through confirmation hearings based exclusively on Republican votes. Any viable candidate (given current “no-compromise” pressures on confirmation) will need to get majority support from democrats (or no major defections). Endorsement from Boxer (as Chair) and Markey isn’t a surprise, but a basic requirement, and signal that these appointments may have a chance to get out of Committee.

      1. @EL

        The link you provided to a “retirement announcement” is dated Jun 26, just 4 days prior to the end of Apostolakis’s term.

        Can you provide evidence that he announced an intent to retire early enough to have influenced what was already a “done deal” by the end of June? If the powers-that-be in the Administration had wanted him to remain on the NRC, why didn’t they recommend a more timely indication that the position was his if he wanted to remain? It takes some time to arrange and conduct confirmation hearings, even for a reappointment of a sitting commissioner.

        1. @Rod Adams

          He apparently received a call from White House, sent a short letter to colleagues saying he was “retiring,” and a former official at NRC stated “We all knew this train wreck was coming.”


          This hardly sounds to me like he was actively campaigning for the job or awaiting a change in opinions about his service. He seems to have learned his lesson well that you don’t drag out disputes with your colleagues, administration, and agency in the media (and is choosing to stay out of the spotlight). All of this despite fervid enthusiasm from his ardent supporters, including some on this site, who think very highly of him and would like to see him stay on at the agency. If it’s true “we all” saw this train wreck coming,” I have a hard time believing Apostolakis was caught off guard by this or was surprised by any of it. It sounds to me like there is a lot that is not being said (and Apostolakis is working earnestly to ensure to keep it that way).

          But no … I no evidence he was seeking to retire at an earlier point (or actively seeking a renomination, as some have suggested). And if we are to take him at his own words (reported in each of these stories after the call from the White House), all we have is that he is retiring. And that nobody appears to be much surprised by any of it.

          1. @EL

            That sounds to me like the call from the White House told Commissioner Apostolakis, a gentleman with a distinguished academic and professional career, that his presence was no longer wanted at the NRC. The retirement note to colleagues came after that conversation, probably sometime in mid to late June, not before.

            You make a big deal out of the fact that you have no evidence that he was “actively seeking a renomination,” but exactly what do you think is the protocol for this kind of renomination. The modest and somewhat publicity shy Commissioner made it know to the people who mattered that he would be happy to continue serving if asked. He did not make a big deal about it because he is a technical expert, not a politician. He also knew that a strong expression of interest would result in uncomfortable questions if the politicians made a different, potentially embarrassing decision about his continued service.

            Nope – this is one more bit of evidence of the absurdly strong influence of a Senator from a tiny little state in the middle of nowhere.

          2. You make a big deal out of the fact that you have no evidence that he was “actively seeking a renomination,” but exactly what do you think is the protocol for this kind of renomination.

            @Rod Adams.

            You bide your time until an announcement has been made (so the White House can perform it’s due diligence on viable candidates in a reasonable manner and without undue influence over the decision … a lengthy process), and then you prepare your office for the next occupant. We agree Apostolakis is publicity shy (after the fact) and is not good at the politics. You seem to think this is an asset. It is not. The job is of critical importance and has a relevance to many important matters in society, public safety, national security, research and innovation, business, energy policy, and more. It takes more than a technical expert to do the job, but one who is familiar with the “business of washington” and also the art of shepherding policy through a large and complicated bureaucracy (to say nothing of managing public expectations and the public interests of your office … otherwise called “politics”).

            I’m not sure why a fervid supporter of nuclear power would simply be satisfied with a technical expert in this role? Aren’t there plenty of well qualified permanent civil service employees at the NRC who are more than qualified to satisfy this role? Wouldn’t you want someone with a bit of power and influence (and who can fashion new consensus and build new constituencies on topics that are long standing and involve difficult and entrenched interests).

            It seems to me that Obama is offering a twofer (just like in the past). I would hazard to guess Burns is your guy (simply based on his insider credentials and that Republicans are paying lip service to the guy … meaning they take him seriously). And Baran is the guy who brings “balance” to the Commission (since it is a multi person “Commission” after all and rational and objective deliberative discourse, adequately informed about the facts, is a major feature of it’s mandate, and how we go about many things in Government … to useful ends I would hold). If Apostolakis couldn’t live with these constraints (or was a bit stubborn and flat footed in his approach to matters before the Commission), perhaps it was time for him to go. Find someone who can work more constructively with their colleagues to fashion consensus around difficult and technical fields, even if the outcome is uncertain (and not as one would wish on a personal or private basis, or at that immediate time).

      2. Re Dr. Apostolakis’s desire to be renominated, let’s just say that I have my sources, and I consider them to be very reliable, and leave it at that.

        As far as the new nominees are concerned, the going assumption is that Harry Reid has a strong influence on Democratic nominees. I suspect that both Burns and Baran were run by him and found to be acceptable, or proposed by him in the first place. Don’t forget that Burns backed Jackzo on Yucca Mountain and at the hearings that preceded his resignation.

    2. … no one seems to mind that Steve Burns’ current job is head of the NEA’s legal affairs section.

      @ oldnuke

      Not according to article cited by Rod: “Burn’s nomination, however, has run into questions from the opposite perspective as well, with some environmentalists noting the apparent revolving door between the NRC and the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency.”

      Magwood is mentioned as another example.

      1. If “some environmentalists” are raising questions about Burns’ association with the NEA, those questions are being raised pretty softly, compared to the hue and cry that has accompanied Magwood’s decision to retain his seat on the Commission as long as he can.

      2. And incidentally, describing the NEA as a “nuclear promotional agency,” as these so-called “environmentalists” do, is just plain wrong. It is nothing of the sort, and in fact sponsors an array of committees and working groups to encourage nuclear regulators from various countries to collaborate on issues of mutual interest.

  4. The fact that Boxer, Markey AND Mariotte endorse both gentlemen speaks volumes about the expectations from the anti-nuclear side that will be placed on Burns and Baran if their nominations are approved.

    It also speaks to the high possibility that both gentlemen will meet those anti’s expectations which means they will lean towards – if not outright support – anti-nuclear positions.

    And if that happens then, again, the NRC will be run like a circus instead of the professionally run regulatory body it should be.

    A three ring circus at the NRC is the goal for the anti-nuclear side but it will not bode well for the future of the country. If the NRC Commission devolves into a forum for every anti-nuclear talking point then nuclear power in the US will be set back at least 10 years.

    And how long until the NRC loses its gold standard in the world nuclear community at-large if it becomes a circus again? Again, a goal of the anti-nuclear groups but not a good long term strategic position for the United States.

  5. I am not surprised that Barack Hussein Obama would appoint to the US NRC people apathetic against nuclear energy at best and more likely antagonistic towards nuclear energy.

    1. Gotta include that Hussien, doncha Paul? You do, of course, realize that your constant need to include his middle name says more about you than it does about him?

      1. Yes, POA, I do have to include his middle name. Those who voted for this anti-nuclear President should know for whom they have voted.

        1. So Paul, this “whom” is defined by his middle name? How so??? Is he one of those brown skinned devil terrorist muslims?? Or am I misinterpreting the intent of your insinuations? A shame you feel the need to slide insinuations out from under the rocks. If you’d just speak your mind with some courage, we wouldn’t have to translate.

          1. When his legal name was apparently “Barry Soetoro” for most of his childhood and young adult life, his deliberate adoption of “Hussein” was something he INTENDED to define him, your use of PC taboos to anathematize the act of noticing that little fact notwithstanding.

          2. Also, EP, the use of a politician’s middle name (or former name, e.g., “Gary Hartpence” instead of “Gary Hart”) by their opponents is a very old approach:
            Nixon’s opponents routinely called him just “Millhouse”, for example. I had never heard of the use of a politician’s middle name as being racial/ethnic/etc. until 2008, though.

          3. Interesting. Not one of you, weaving weak rationales, is willing to admit to the actual motive behind repeatedly using his middle name.

            So, Paul’s repeated use of his middle name is just an innocent act of civility, hoping to keep us all enlightened as to Obama’s full name?

            Yeah, right. Kinda gutless, fellas.

          4. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had a name indicating he was Irish.
            Barack Hussein Obama has a name indicating he is Kenyan with Muslim ancestry.

            Americans must be overwhelmingly satisfied with the twice elected President.

            There is nothing wrong with using a person’s name. Perhaps if the President were a tad more traditionally American in view of the US Constitution and separation of powers, you’d be less sensitive to the issue of name usage.
            Fact is – Obama has third world roots, and demonstrates third world views as he seeks to “rule” accordingly.

        2. And exactly how does someone’s name have anything to do with who they are?

          For the record, my middle name is Matthew, but I was not named after the apostle.

          1. Well….mine is “Frank”, and that’s exactly what I try to be.

            I’ve never known anyone that had “Weasel” for a middle name, but there seems to be no shortage of candidates.

          2. Rod,
            As regards names, a question came up in my household an hour ago:
            “What is the difference between ‘nuclear power’ and ‘atomic power’?”
            My answer was: “atomic” power was used earlier on and “nuclear” power is used more nowadays. Correct answer? Or does “nuclear” power include things like RTGs and betavoltaics? If “nuclear power” and “atomic power” ARE completely coextensive, any idea why the shift to “nuclear” over the years?
            Since I’ve interrupted a “political” string with this question, I note that both Carter and Bush 43 would have benefited by using the term “atomic” power as they consistently mispronounced “nuclear.”

  6. As I understand it, there is currently a moratorium on approving any new nuclear construction projects until the Waste Confidence Rule is straightened out in the courts. Will these two new commissioners make it more or less likely that Southern’s (or any other utilities’) plans for new plants might ever be approved?

    The Vogtle 3 and 4 projects do appear to be progressing nicely, though.

  7. Rod…

    Do you suppose the timing of the National Academy Of Science report , coinciding with these appointments, is a coincidence?

    Also, as an aside, I hope you were able to view the link I posted to the recent MEPC forum. I think you will find much to agree with.

  8. “This is more evidence supporting my theory that the underlying goal of many groups that attempt to use the cloak of environmentalism is to reduce abundance for all in order to increase profits for plutocrats.”

    Question – These people have a lot of money. They can basically invest and to some degree control any industry that interests them. Why aren’t they investing in nukes? It would seem that it could be a very steady long-term source of income. Does it lack return because nukes are sold to utilities which are a regulated industry?

    1. @Eino

      Have you ever looked at the rates of return that oil and gas investments can provide and compared that to the kinds of returns that are acceptable in government contracting or regulated utilities?

      In addition, please understand that my pointing to oil and gas interests is not necessarily saying anything about any particular oil company with friendly logos on your local streets. There are entire countries whose main source of income is selling oil and gas. They have limited ability to produce any more of their product, either by physical limitations or by agreements with their cartel. That makes them very interested in selling that product at the highest possible price that will consume everything they can produce without encouraging more competition or to much “energy conservation” among their customers.

      Finally, just because someone has money does not mean they are smart. Making money in the oil and gas business is not complicated and does not require any significant education or skills unless you are talking about the most challenging marginal production areas.

      In contrast, it takes a good bit of education and integrity to be able to understand nuclear technology, the nuclear energy business, and the important task of managing specially trained workers who are taught the importance of a questioning attitude and personal responsibility starting on their first day of work.

      1. OTOH those countries are currently turning to nuclear to increase the amount of oil they can export. Or at least not be eaten by the export-land model (cf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_Land_Model ).

        For more details : http://www.mining.com/why-does-saudi-arabia-need-nuclear-power-66922/ : “2006. Along with the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman – the oil-rich nation led an investigation into the possibility of a nuclear power and desalination program.”

      2. I noticed that you endorsed the book ” Nuclear 2.0″. I agree that it makes a good case for nuclear energy but personally I was disappointed that it dealt inadequately with nuclear reactor waste and for that reason could only bring myself to give it a 4 star rating.

  9. Rod, re Iran’s enrichment capacity, the agreement for Russia to supply all the fuel for Bushehr (and take back the used fuel) runs for some time, I thin at least ten years. And what enrichment is needed for the Arak heavy water reactor?

    1. @Ian

      If you were an Iranian decision-maker, would you put the electrical production capability of a 1000 MWe nuclear power plant that took more than 30 years to build at risk of being interrupted if Russia decided to stop supplying enriched fuel? Who is the alternative supplier?

      I have no idea what enrichment Arak uses for the kind of research it is conducting. Just because a reactor uses heavy water moderation does not mean that it only uses natural uranium. The Chalk River reactor, for example, that has been supplying most of North America’s medical isotopes for the past 50 years uses enriched uranium targets.

        1. @EdP

          Why? We are not having a fuel enrichment discussion. We have having a discussion about the need for isotope separation using centrifuges. The primary purpose might be fuel, but if a nation recognizes the value of isotope production using research reactors, wouldn’t they have a right under the NPT to make their own targets under some kind of verification process that the isotopes will be used in peaceful applications?

    2. @Ian

      Though this opinion piece uses a low-ball estimate of the quantity of SWU (separative work units) required each year, it provides a pretty good explanation of the value associated with an indigenous enrichment capability from an outsider’s point of view.

    1. From POA’s link:

      “The committee lacked time and resources to perform an in-depth examination of U.S. preparedness for severe nuclear accidents. The report recommends that the nuclear industry and organizations with emergency management responsibilities assess their preparedness for severe nuclear accidents associated with offsite regional-scale disasters. Emergency response plans, including plans for communicating with affected populations, should be revised or supplemented to ensure that there are scalable and effective strategies, well-trained personnel, and adequate resources for responding to long-duration accident/disaster scenarios.”

      The phrase, “Go find us a rock,” somehow comes to mind. The committee didn’t have the time or resources to figure out what they wanted. Go find a rock and they’ll let you know if it is the right one. This kind of stuff drives energy costs up and the reality is that it may lack real value. More studies and paperwork are to be done to justify that what has been OK for US nuke plants for a long time is still OK.

      I want one of those bureaucrat jobs. I want people to bring the rocks to me for a change.

      1. @Eino

        This NAS report does something else that drives me batty. The members of the committee apparently were told to evaluate preparedness as of the start of their investigation. That meant that initiatives like FLEX were NOT included.

        After much study and a couple of years worth of funding, the committee then issues a report as “news” even though it provides a snap shot of conditions as they were perceived to be several years ago. Even though numerous actions have already been done to address the concerns expressed, the industry receives no credit and the chickens that perpetually run around with their heads cut off scream and shout that something more must be done NOW.

        1. So….again, I ask…..

          It seems a bit “convenient” that the release of this report coincides with these appointments. I wonder, do you think this report may be telegraphing policy changes?

          Btw…I tried to post the link to the actual report, but it was swallowed by the infamous Atomicinsights black hole.

        2. Just as mysterious; UCS guy and retired INPO guy listed at Tech Reviewers. Both must be aware of FLEX current status efforts (and so is NRC). The way I read, report was funded by NRC. And nobody anticipates a potential problem by leaving such a thing hanging? Who’s running that railroad?

  10. @JohnGalt

    The only nuclear energy entity on your list was MH-1A. All others are different applications of nuclear technology. (Despite the name assigned to the DOE, I do not consider weapons programs to be energy programs.)

  11. I am definitely opposed to the confirmation of Baran to the NRC. Baran is an aide to Representative Henry Waxman. Waxman has opposed licensing of the Yucca Mountain repository. It seems to me that it is similar to appointing Jaczko, an aide to Senator Reid, one of the most vocal opponents to licensing of Yucca Mountain. One should remember also that Jaczko was appointed chairman of the NRC very soon after he became an NRC Commission member. As chairman Jaczko used every conceivable opportunity to delay progress in the licensing of Yucca Mountain, the only high level nuclear waste repository being considered for a license in the United States. If Baran becomes Chairman of the NRC there is a high probability that we will continue to experience delays in the licensing of Yucca Mountain, in my opinion.

    1. @Susanne E. Vandenbosch

      I agree with almost everything you wrote except the statement that Jaczko was appointed Chairman “very soon” after he became a Commissioner. He was appointed to the Commission on January 21, 2005 by President George W. Bush. President Obama elevated him to Chairman on May 13, 2009. He served for more than 4 years before becoming Chairman.

      1. And remember, that despite being on the Commission for 7 years, in his own words, he was not aware of residual decay heat until after he resigned from the commission.

        Could a competent person on the NRC remain unaware of residual decay heat for seven years? Would they even hire the lowest level engineer if he wasn’t aware of residual decay heat?

        Jackzo. Quality in government.

        His own words could be used to publicly condemn him as clearly incompetent and should be used to tar his patrons who gave him another position in the DOE.

      1. Baran and Burns have been confirmed by the Senate. There was no debate on these two nominations. Lowering the number of votes for cloture from 60 t0 50which was done previously facilitated these confirmations.

          1. There was no debate by the full Senate on the nominations of Baran and Burns. Senator Wyden (D-OR) introduced a unanimous consent motion to waive debate on the Baran nomination. It would take just one Senator to oppose this motion but no one made this effort. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) made a unanimous consent motion to waive debate on the Burns nomination. No one opposed this. The vote was 52-39 for Baran and 54-37 for Burns.

            1. @Suzanne

              While I’m disappointed with the outcome, I’m glad that Barran will have another confirmation hearing next year. Maybe he’ll be ok, but if not…

  12. Actually President George W. Bush was pressured into appointing Jaczko after Senator Harry Reid put holds on 175 of nominees.

    1. @Susanne E. Vandenbosch

      Agreed, but I never had any civics lessons that taught that the Senate Majority Leader was more powerful than the President.

      As they said in Apollo 13 – “Houston. We have a problem.”

      There is something wrong with our political leaders that must be called out and corrected. Spinelessness is not a leadership quality.

      1. The Senate Majority Leader does have too much power in my opinion. In addition the present Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid(D-NV) regularly uses informal rules to further his goals, those of the Democratic Party and President Obama. Recently he has even ignored rulings of the Senate parlimentarian. Often he does not call up bills and nominations. He decides if amendments will be allowed and how many. He has engaged in “filling up the amendment tree”. For example, if he allows five amendments- he proposes five amendments himself leaving no opportunity for other Senators to propose amendments. This behavior is unworthy of the Senate.

  13. The Jaczko nomination for a 5 year term did not have enough support in the Senate so
    George W. Bush appointed Jaczko during an interim for a two year term which did not require Senate confirmation. Reid then released his hold on 175 nominees. All bills must be passed by both houses so Reid can refuse to calll up house passed bills as well bills being considered in the Senate. House members want to get bills through that will benefit their district and political party and likewise Senators want bills that will benefit their state and political party.. This is the informal source of the power of the Senate Majority Leader. We need to elect courageous legislators willing serve the national interest rather than the interest of their state or party.

    There is a way to bypass the Senate majority leader. This is called the Motion to Proceed. Members using it may suffer sanctions. Frank Murkowski used it to bypass Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who would not call up the resolution for the DOE to submit a license application for the Yucca Mountain repository. Murkowski had decided not to run for reelection and would not experiece long term sanctions.

    1. Correction: The rules for using the Motion to Proceed have been changed and it is much more difficult to use this now. The associated cloture motion now requires signatures of the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, seven Democratic senators and seven Republican senators. (Smith, Steven, The Senate Syndrome: The Evolution of Procedural Warfare in the Modern U. S. Senate. 2014 p. 13.) This change was made November 21, 2013

  14. “This is the informal source of the power of the Senate Majority Leader. We need to elect courageous legislators willing serve the national interest rather than the interest of their state or party.”

    Ideally, state representatives should endeavor to serve the interests of their constituency. I agree that party has become far to important in determining policy. But your premise concerning state representatives suprises me.

    Of far greater concern is our legislator’s subservience to the interests of special interests. I would hazard the premise that special interests trump both state interests and national interests in determining which way a legislator will vote on key legislation. When one is being paid off, “national interest” is for sale to the highest bidder. Forget science. If you really want to advance NE, you need to dig out your wallets and out-bribe the fossil fuel lobbyists. “Science” is whatever the almighty dollar says it is.

    1. @poa

      I’m an odd duck; I’ve never thought that dollars were all that important. Certainly they are not “almighty” in my idealistic little world.

      1. Well……the dang things, if not almighty, are certainly a heck of a lot craftier than I, because I ain’t very good at getting them, and I’m even worse at hanging on to ’em. So……I’m not real infatuated with them either.

        But we’re talking about lobbyists and politicians, so the term “almighty dollar”becomes extremely apropos when trying to determine what altar they kneel before.

  15. For those who would like to know more about new Senate procedures I recommend:

    Steven S. Smith, The Senate Syndrome: The Evolution of Procedural Warfare in the Modern U. S. Senate. (2014).

    Barbara Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the U. S. (2011)

    For those interested in how Congress selected Yucca Mountain for disposal of high level nuclear waste I recommend:

    Robert Vandenbosch and Susanne E. Vandenbosch, Nuclear Waste Stalemate: Political and Scientific Controversies (2007).

  16. Allison Macfarlane is resigning as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She will continue to serve until the end of the year. Two decisions will have to be made.
    One involves designation of a new chairman. The other involves nominating a new member of the NRC. I have not heard if President Obama plans to do this before or after the election. In any event we should be thinking of suitable nominees for both positions.

      1. Rod: I did not know about the October 22 post. I have found it and posted these comments and some additional insights on your October 22, 2014 post on Atomic Insights.

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