Obama Taps Nuclear “Agnostic” for Top Regulatory Post

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/m-i-k-e/6541560787/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Michael Kappel</a>/Flickr

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Politico reports that President Obama will nominate Allison Macfarlane to serve as the new chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The current chairman, Greg Jaczko, resigned on Monday under pressure from panel members more sympathetic to the nuclear industry.

Mcfarlane is an associate professor of Environmental Policy and Social Sciences at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She has a PhD in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and wrote a book about the challenges of nuclear waste disposal, Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste. She is currently a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the future of nuclear that Energy Secretary Steven Chu created in 2010.

Given the pressure put on Jaczko, one has to wonder if Macfarlane will make it through Senate confirmation. She’s been highly critical of using Yucca Mountain to dispose of nuclear waste, a favorite issue for the industry and supporters in Congress. And she says she’s an “agnostic” on nuclear energy, as she described on the Atomic Show podcast in 2007:

In terms of nuclear energy, I would describe myself as an agnostic. I’m neither pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear. I think nuclear has been doing a good job in the United states and some other industrial countries at providing a good, reliable energy, and they’ve been improving on that. At the same time, I think I think in terms of an expansion in nuclear power over the next 50 years or something, nuclear has lot of liabilities and I don’t know if it can get over them.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader (and vocal Yucca critic) Harry Reid indicated that he would seek to move her confirmation forward alongside the reconfirmation of current commissioner Kristine Svinicki. Reid has expressed “grave concerns” about reappointing Svinicki, but seemed to indicate that perhaps there could be agreement on moving the two forward together. “The nuclear industry has a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to safety by supporting Dr. Macfarlane’s nomination,” said Reid.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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