Republicans Press NRC Chief Designee on Management Skills

U.S. Senate Republicans questioned
Allison Macfarlane’s skills to lead the Nuclear Regulatory
, citing limited experience to prepare her to run an
agency with 4,000 employees and a budget of almost $1 billion.

Macfarlane, a 48-year-old geologist, pledged to the Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee today that she would be
collegial if confirmed to replace Gregory Jaczko, who is
quitting after colleagues accused him of bullying the staff.

“It’s my hope that Dr. Macfarlane can step in to be a
valuable member of the commission, although I have some concerns
about her lack of management and nuclear-safety experience,”
Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, top Republican on the
committee, said at the confirmation hearing.

The agency has been split in the past year, with Jaczko
frequently voting against the four commissioners on issues such
as licensing new reactor construction and standards responding
to the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima in 2011. The NRC watchdog
faulted Jaczko for limiting the commissioners’ decision-making
power and withholding information.

Criticism of Macfarlane has been muted as panel Chairman
Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, combined the committee’s
consideration of Macfarlane with President Barack Obama’s
nomination of Kristine Svinicki, named to the commission in 2008
by Republican George W. Bush. Jaczko announced his resignation
on May 21.

Open, Transparent

Macfarlane, a professor at George Mason University in
Virginia, pledged to be open and transparent in running the
agency that oversees 104 U.S. commercial reactors. She admitted
knowing little about issues including post-Fukushima safety
recommendations for containment vents at reactors, and said she
is interested in learning more and drawing on the expertise of
the incumbent commissioners.

“They all have different sets of expertise, and I would
certainly want to tap their expertise,” she said, turning to
look at Svinicki, who sat alongside her at the witness table.
“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.”

Boxer criticized Svinicki today for withholding information
about her involvement in

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