1. I watched the hearing live yesterday, and was very confused by some of the statements by Senator Sanders. What “secret” commission votes was he talking about? As a nuclear engineering student, I have frequently been interested in seeing how commissioners voted on license renewals and new plant applications, and have always been able to find their voting records either as written releases or videos on the NRC website, as Commissioner Svinicki pointed out in her response to Senator Sanders. So what exactly is “undemocratic” and nontransparent about this, according to Senator Sanders?

    Hopefully one day we can get more Senators like Lamar Alexander, and fewer liker Barbara Boxer. She seemed desperate to try to twist any of Svinicki’s statements to make her look like some sort of dangerous loose cannon. Bernie Sanders simply illustrates that we have too many senile grumpy men in Congress.

  2. She will be forced to depend on others – which I admit is often the case for any leader in a complex organization – but like all leaders she has the authority to choose her trusted advisors.

    I’m willing to bet that she’ll have Gilinsky’s number on speed-dial.

  3. Welcome to politics. It usually involves compromise.

    Fortunately, Macfarlane’s tenure as NRC Chairman could be very short. Currently, she’s only filling in for the rest of Jaczko’s term. The elections in November could have a large effect here. Next year, Obama might not be in the White House, which would mean that Macfarlane almost certainly will not remain the chair. The Democrats could lose control of the Senate next year, which would reduce Reid’s power.

    In any case, Reid is sure not to be the Senate Majority Leader in 2015. So these setbacks are temporary.

  4. I believe Dr. Gail Marcus posted an insightful blog awhile back pointing out that some past NRC commissioners have been businessmen or lawyers or scientists with little prior exposure to nuclear power. At this point the primary criterion that matters to me is that the individual not be Harry Reid’s meat puppet. By all appearances Dr. McFarlane’s concerns regarding Yucca Mountain are her own and are not politically motivated.

  5. I’m firmly in the wait-and-see camp regarding Dr Macfarlane’s performance in the NRC chair.

    There are a few issues, it seems, where one side feels no constraint towards polite engagement and the other side is expected to be ultra-deferential. Nuclear power is certainly one such. It’s an unhealthy state for a reasonable debate to take place.

  6. I agree Rod. It does seem staged to appear like they are mulling it over. The amount of time given to each question by Senator Alexander seemed ludicrous. As a matter of fact the senators did more talking than the candidates. Why limit each Senator to six minutes? Check out my latest post on the History of Nuclear Waste http://tinyurl.com/82fhemx

  7. “I pride myself on a developed ability to read between the lines of written material and to listen for the words that are not spoken by watching body language and listening carefully to the words that are spoken.”

    Rod … I’m curious why you view this body language, personal demeanor, and reading between the lines as “a fix” against the interests of nuclear (if this is what you seem to be suggesting). To me, after watching all two hours of the hearing (ugh), it looks like she was put forward as a consensus candidate to help fix some of the problems of leadership on the Commission (namely, the adversarial relationship among some of the commissioners). The Senators appear to be getting exactly what they think the Commission needs at this particular point in time (Sessions, Alexander, and Inhofe included). Someone who is soft in their demeanor, relatively unspecific about their goals (“agnostic” about many matters before the Commission), and will keep an open mind and be deferential to process. Her background and training in academia seems perfectly suited to this role.

    I have no doubt she will advance many of the policy goals of the administration: licensing of new power plants, research and development of small modular reactors, adequate regulation and safe oversight (response to Fukushima), interim storage and spent fuel consolidation, and move the ball forward on long term storage alternatives (breaking through many of the impediments in political fealty, scientific justification, and a “consent based” process with many challenges ahead). I really don’t think nuclear would fare any better under a Republican administration (and the record over the last 11 years seems to bear this out). Romney has said absolutely nothing about nuclear power, and has given every indication that he wishes to further the policies of the previous administration that marginalized nuclear, and placed oil and natural gas at the forefront of national policies and interests. Perhaps this is a subtext worth considering. If you saw kid gloves here, perhaps it was tacit support from pro-nuclear Senators on the Committee (NEI as well), and an awareness that Obama is probably the best thing the nuclear industry has going for it. It remains for the industry to deliver power plants on time and on budget (and gain significant interest from the private sector as a consequence). It’s no secret that Big Oil and Natural Gas are major stakeholders in the Romney campaign. If you don’t think this will have a consequence for nuclear, I think you have start looking a little closer at the body language, personal demeanor, and between the lines of this Committee Hearing (or the political rhetoric and balance sheet of the national campaign in general).

  8. Thought I’d just come back to this post to leave some encouraging signs of improved conditions at the NRC under Macfarlane – early days of course, but…

    In prepared testimony, Macfarlane said U.S. reactors face no imminent risks and that additional requirements will be imposed on power companies to assure nuclear facilities are able to cope with “beyond-design-basis” natural disasters. She said she began to meet regularly with her commissioner colleagues, drawing a contrast between her and Jaczko.

    “I make this commitment to you today: I will devote all my energies to serving on the NRC with the attributes that I consider important to good governance — openness, efficiency and transparency,” she said in testimony. “I will make a strong commitment to collegiality at all levels. An agency endowed with the public trust such as the NRC requires a respectful working environment to assure its integrity.”

    Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, who joined the NRC during the Bush administration, said the tone Macfarlane has set in two weeks is constructive and “most welcome.”

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

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

Similar Posts