Burns becomes NRC’s 16th chairman, succeeds Macfarlane

President Obama has designated Stephen G. Burns, a 33-year staff veteran of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to become chairman of the commission effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Burns replaces outgoing Chairman Allison Macfarlane, who is stepping down to take a position at George Washington University. Burns was only confirmed by the Senate as a commissioner in November, with significant Republican opposition.

“I am pleased to have been selected to serve as the NRC’s next Chairman. It is a great honor to lead the agency to which I dedicated most of my professional career,” Burns said. “I extend my thanks to Dr. Macfarlane for her service and wish her success in her new position. I look forward to working with my fellow Commissioners, the NRC staff and our stakeholders in carrying out the NRC’s important mission.”

Burns is the second career NRC general counsel to be named chairman. Marcus A. Rowden, who was general counsel for the Atomic Energy Commission, became the new agency’s second Chairman in 1976.

Before returning to the NRC, Burns was the Head of Legal Affairs of the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Prior to that position, Burns had served at the NRC in a variety of roles, including as the agency’s General Counsel from 2009 to 2012. He began his career at the NRC as an attorney in the Regional Operations and Enforcement Division in 1978.

Burns received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in 1975 from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. He received his law degree with honors in 1978 from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he was an editor on the George Washington Law Review.

Burns is scheduled to serve a term that will expire on June 30, 2019. Burns succeeds Commissioner George Apostolakis was not re-nominated by the Obama administration.

Burns is one of two recently-confirmed Democrats that are joining NRC. Jeffery Baran, of Virginia, a long-time congressional staffer was sworn in as a commissioner in October.

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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 wayneb@pennwell.com.