1. If Obama is smart, he’ll appoint Magwood as Chairman and nominate some sort of “anti-nuke” to the Commission to appease the enviro-wacko part of his base. In this scenario, MacFarlane probably stands a pretty decent chance of being nominated.

    I agree with Rod that she would make a very poor commissioner — I recall Rod’s interview with her, and “clueless” doesn’t begin to describe how poorly informed she was — but then again, she’ll only replace Jackzo’s perpetual “no” vote on the Commission, so the damage won’t be but so bad.

    The important thing is to get someone with competent leadership and administrative skills in the chairmanship, and Magwood certainly has the experience from his time at the DOE.

    Reuters is reporting that the President intends to nominate a new chairman “soon.” That hints to me that the new Chairman will be one of the other four commissioners.

    1. Magwood as Chairman would be quite an improvement, as would Svinicki, Ostendorff, or Apostolakis. Any of the 4 would represent something greater than a tripling of the nuclear experience level within the Chairman’s (or Chairwoman’s) seat. It would be difficult to develop a legitimate and rational argument that that would not be an improvement.

      1. Well, I think that, realistically, the President is going to appoint a Democrat.

        The trend has been for the President to appoint somebody from his own party or an independent, except for Carter, who appointed a Republican Chairman in 1977.

  2. Rod — We should in mind that, by law (Section 201 of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974), the President can “designate” the Chairman of the NRC without Congressional approval as long as the new chairman is a sitting member of the Commission. In fact, you may recall this is how Jaczko came to be Chairman and Klein stepped down in 2009. In this light, there are already several well-qualified individuals currently on the Commission who could easily step in and be Chairman without any Congressional involvement or its attendant political consequences. Although Ostendorff is the ideal Chairman, Magwood is the obvious choice in view of the fact that the President is far more likely to designate a member of his own political party. Of course, Obama will still have an opportunity to fill the vacant seat left by Jaczko, but that can happen later.

      1. Thank you for the link and the correction. Of the listed papers, only 2 were published after 1999 when he was awarded his PhD. All of the rest were apparently part of his PhD study and published in or before 1999.

        1. Rod – Well, more importantly, he has only one journal paper in which he was first author. (It’s customary in most fields that the first author is the one who actually wrote the article.)

          Of the rest, one is his PhD Thesis, another is a conference paper. On most of the journal papers, he is listed last, usually indicating that he contributed the least to the paper’s contents.

          I don’t want to take anything away from Jaczko, however. This publication record is not unusual for a PhD candidate in the physical sciences. You get a couple of publications before graduation, and you get a couple of publications from your graduate-school work after you finish. That’s typical.

          It’s clear, however, that he ceased to work seriously in high-energy physics, or in any field of scientific research, after he received his degree from Wisconsin. But we already knew that.

        2. I’d drop this section on the publications and his postdoc experience if you repost this anywhere, as you’ll distract any readers with PhDs who will nitpick it. First, postdocs never teach (at least in the physical sciences) and most PhD who’ve left academia (except for some in the National Labs) will have stopped publishing after grad school as well. This is, frankly, the goal of most grad students.

        3. @Kevin

          I am not sure that I understand your comment. My point in mentioning the lack of continued publication or teaching is to reinforce my characterization of Greg Jaczko as a career politician who happens to have a PhD in theoretical physics as opposed to being a “scientist” who is applying his vast science knowledge in a public policy role to solve pressing problems.

          I realize that many people who earn PhDs and leave academia rarely publish in journals, but the ones who are true scientists go on to apply their knowledge in fields that are at least somewhat related to the passion that supposedly led them to pursue the PhD in the first place. They earn patents, start companies, work in industry, or do consulting work.

          They do not gravitate to staff jobs where they feel empowered to make public policy while they are still wet behind the ears and have little to no knowledge of the technology that they are lecturing others about.

        4. I’m pretty sure that Jaczko never did a postdoc. The APS article that I linked to hints that he went straight from graduation to an AAAS fellowship working for Ed Markey.

          But the best quote from Jaczko in the APS article is, “I have never lost the things I learned in grad school” … yeah, like how to crap on your underlings. Anyone who has done time as a slave … er … graduate student knows what I’m talking about.

        5. The AAAS fellowship is an amazing tool to get scientists into policy. The problem is that our policy environment is so starved for logical thought that science becomes maligned for political purposes.

          I had the pleasure of meeting a number of AAAS fellows around Washington two weeks ago. They were in various departments and positions. One that I met had the most honest answer I heard. She was on the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. These committees and sub committees are the ones who write the bills. The members have a up down vote which is non-trivial however if used without the tool of understanding it represents only a rubber stamp.

          I seriously doubt there are any staff in the House and Senate that understand every bill that is voted upon. There are too many they are too complex and too detailed that even with a great deal of study, knowledge and time. It is in light of this particular reality that her response was most illuminating. She said she had been on the hill for 8-years (AAAS fellows are there for 1.5 years extendible to 2.5). We asked her why. Her response, “Because of the power.”

          If we even care to hope to enable public policy that is not outright hostile or even based on physical evidence then we had best motivate our current and future graduate students to apply for AAAS fellows and start to populate the various government agencies. If we sit idly by then we will get more nitwits like Jazcko.

          In other words stop complaining about his record and start motivating a new generation to enable more effective (rationally based) policy. I know that is a tall order but it starts with one individual at a time.

          FYI AAAS fellows in engineering need only have a Masters, PhD helps but is not required.

        6. P.S. I am just as guilty about complaining as anyone else on this blog so this applies to my happy self too.

  3. Its a shame such a incompetent and divisive figure was chairman at such a critical time for the environment and for nuclear power. Choosing to argue complex policy in public opinion venues was ridiculous. Inexcusable.

    If success is a public perception that American nuclear power is safer Id say he’s totally failed.

    And to the commenter above – “environmental wackos” implies that the anti nuclear movement somehow values the environment over nuclear power. The opposite has been true. There are anti nuclear wackos and thats it. If anything they are fervently anti environmental as well.

    Over 30 years of predominantly high carbon fossil fuel use by their incompetence is the proof.

    1. Based on the fiction he released last year, Odds are that he will be a screenwriter consultant for a 2011 era Godzilla movie remake.

  4. Re: John Tucker says “environmental wackos” implies that the anti nuclear movement somehow values the environment over nuclear power. The opposite has been true. There are anti nuclear wackos and thats it. If anything they are fervently anti environmental as well. Over 30 years of predominantly high carbon fossil fuel use by their incompetence is the proof.”

    Beyond incompetence, and as harshly over-the-top and non-PC as this sounds, but anti-nukers must also like to see tens of thousands people die or live in misery and anguish for decades past and future via respiratory diseases and pollution than eat the fallacies of their belief. Most every hospital has a respiratory ward; I don’t know of ANY with a radiation ward (nor Japan I bet — get a grip, Japan!) That whiffs an anti-nukers’ public health hypocrisy to me! Anti-nukes ought visit one and sober up — especially the kids’ wards. The anti-nukes are either clueless idoits or anti-nuclear fanatics out to avenge Hiroshima because you just can’t knock nuclear on its public/worker heath record through the ages (that’s why I curse the “fair and accurate” media for pampering them so). No, to me it’s not really any “safety” issue to them. It’s the irrational Hiroshima-vengence thing and wanting to be good guy St. Georges looking for corporate dragons to slay. Unfortunately it seems the nuclear “industry” and unions are almost criminally negligent at letting antis run amok casting stones to undermine their own existence and the nation’s energy security– heck, I’m reading that the Chicago Nuclear Assembly isn’t even going to peep once about tackling FUD and anti-nuclear groups who are doing a great job scaring people and infiltrating school curricula and and blocking nuke plants.

    Who needs Arnie with self-preservation attitudes like this?

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

    1. Not to mention the damage already occurring from climate change and acidification to the environment or the fact ALL US fresh waterways are contaminated with Mercury. And forget about the surface contamination from 500 plus coal ash and coal slurry ponds and the mining accidents and black lung/mining airborne contaminate deaths of 50 years.

  5. US Court of Appeals (DC) Decision 11-1271 alludes the US Department of Justice
    has been requested to review the US NRCs deliberate failure to act on Yucca Mountain Licensing.


    Simply, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 is the law of the land. Passed by Congress, signed by a President – and is not subject to elimination by decree of regulator.

    If figure the Jazcko exit is entirely a legal move. The remaining Commissioners need to pick up where we left off.

  6. I’m not sure I understand your first argument about 7 yrs 4 months versus “nearly 8 years” to make him look better. That’s splitting hairs to make someone look bad….like you’re statement about an inability to do math. Throwing ridiculous statements out to what end? To make him look bad. Make him look bad with other arguments not petty crap. You’ve done that.

    An example of petty crap would be your definition of “fable.” Look it up and discover that you are entirely misusing it. Does that mean you have a “basic inability” to write or debate? Hardly.

    1. The point about nearly eight years as opposed to a bit more than seven years is important to people who like facts and numbers – like most nuclear professionals.

      What is your point about my use of the word “fable”. It is a short fictional story created to make a point. Sounds very close to the fabricated tall tale that Alvarez and Gundersen have created out of nothing. Besides, I like th alliteration with “Fukushima” and “fuel”.

      Not only do I have a certain amount of professional familiarity with operating, maintaining and designing nuclear power plants, but I also majored in English as an undergraduate.

  7. Allison MacFarlane is the new Jaczko. Looks like no Yucca mountain for a while.

    1. I don’t care about Yucca Mountain; I wrote a long time ago that it was the right answer to the wrong question and that the industry would be best served by quitting the whole game of asking the federal government to be in charge of its used fuel resource.

      However, I hate the idea of nominating someone who has never managed anything other than her own desk to a position of executive power and responsibility with a billion dollar budget, 4,000 skilled employees, and regulatory authority over a $50 – $100 billion per year industry.

      It is just plain WRONG and we need to shout that from every soapbox we can find.

      1. Rod,

        So we know her position and yours on Yucca. Other than that, is she ‘pro nuclear’ and ‘pro climate’ and can make the connection between the two ?


      2. Rod – Yucca Mountain is no longer in the hands of the Chairman of the NRC. Its fate is in the hands of the DOE and the courts.

        I fully share your concerns with the nominee, mostly for the reasons that you state.

  8. This just out. Dr J has been replaced

    Allison M. Macfarlane, Nominee for Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and upon appointment to be designated Chair

  9. I would not discount her so quickly. She seems to at least understand the urgent environmental need for clean energy and the need for nuclear power to move forward.

    But thats THE priority for me. I honestly wouldn’t care if they nationalized all nuclear power. I dont care how poorly the corporate side is treated either – as long as reactors stay on when its reasonably safe , remain efficient and new capacity is added rapidly. Especially reprocessing/fast reactor technology.

    Her affiliation with The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is a bit disconcerting, considering some of their past commentary, and its relationship to the need for rapid action on a nuclear scale with climate change – but the way they have not become the all out anti nuke group they probably would be, considering all things, also says there are influences that are working there behind the scenes.

    It would be a good idea to be cautious here.

  10. Obviously Kirk had plenty of motivation to go find this tidbit from a Blue Ribbon Commission Subcommittee meeting, considering he has started up Flibe Energy to develop a liquid fluoride thorium reactor, but Kirk should be commended for digging up this exchange showing Allison MacFarlane’s apparent inquisitiveness about thorium as a potential nuclear fuel source.

    It can be found on pages 253-255 of this transcipt, and I will post the video in link in a followup comment.


    I think there could be some potential with this ChairLady, in comparison to Greg Jaczko. I will hold out at least a slight amount of optimism for the time being, although I have admittedly not done very thorough digging quite yet.

  11. Seems Macfarlane is associated with Frank von Hippel, which is very bad news for anyone hoping for progress on waste recycling in Gen IV reactors. They recently wrote this piece which advocated a crazy strategy for the UK Plutonium. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7397/full/485167a.html Not that I’m advocating MOX mind you, but they quite clearly purposefully omit to even mention the GE Hitatchi offer to build PRISM reactors to burn the Plutonium.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts