Macfarlane gets a full, five-year term at NRC

After stepping in to fill the last year of the unexpired term of the previous Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman and having drawn the ire of a key Democratic Senator, Allison Macfarlane has won confirmation to a full five-year term at the helm of NRC.

The Senate approved Macfarlane by unanimous consent late June 27. President Obama had previously indicated he would re-designate her as chairman. Unanimous consent is a Senate procedure that does not require a member-by-member roll call vote.

“Paperwork permitting, we expect her to be sworn into her new term as early as Monday morning [July 1],” according to a June 28 NRC blog post. Confirmation by the Senate came just in time as Macfarlane’s term was set to expire June 30.

The NRC is headed by five commissioners nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate for staggered five-year terms, with one Commissioner’s term ending on June 30th of each year. One of the five is designated as the Chairman and official spokesperson of the commission. The other commissioners are: Kristine Svinicki, George Apostalakis, William Magwood and William Ostendorff.

Macfarlane was originally confirmed last summer to complete the final year of the term held by the previous chairman, Greg Jaczko. Jaczko resigned under pressure after alienating both congressional Republicans and fellow members of the commission.

While Macfarlane is credited with various parties improving the workplace climate at NRC, she had to overcome tough questioning by a lawmaker in President Obama’s own party.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, emerged as Macfarlane’s toughest critic during the panel’s May 23 confirmation hearing.

Boxer said she disapproved of Macfarlane’s handling of the San Onofre situation and feared NRC was acting as too much of a rubber stamp for industry.

Since then, however, Edison International (NYSE:EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison (SCE) has taken the issue off the table by announcing retirement of the dual-reactor plant.

Macfarlane is an academic and geologist. Like recently-confirmed Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Macfarlane served on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

“The Nuclear Energy Institute congratulates Chairman Macfarlane on her confirmation to a full term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” said NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel.

“We look forward to continuing to engage with Chairman Macfarlane and her fellow commissioners to ensure that industry and agency resources are properly focused on those matters most important to the safety of commercial nuclear energy facilities,” Fertel said.


About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at