NRC Commissioner Ostendorff not seeking another term

Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner (NRC) William Ostendorff told the Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) March 8 that he is proud of the work NRC has done following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, but is disappointed that the United States has not made more progress on spent nuclear fuel storage.

It was something akin to a farewell address for Ostendorff at the NRC-sponsored regulatory conference in Maryland. Ostendorff said at a nuclear conference last month in Washington, D.C., that he does not plan to seek another NRC term. He plans to leave when his current term expires at the end of June.

Ostendorff, a Navy veteran with a background in nuclear submarines, will accept a distinguished visiting professor position at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Ostendorff said he was proud of the NRC work following the 2011 nuclear accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Dai-chii complex in Japan. The RIC gathering is occurring around the fifth anniversary of the accident.

“Not only do I think we have gotten to a good place [on Fukushima-related regulation], but I am pleased with how we have gotten here,” Ostendorff said.

Initial orders were issued one year after Fukushima accident. NRC then stepped back and took “a deep breath,” Ostendorff said. NRC started taking a wider look at “beyond design basis” accidents – which are very unlikely but could have a very severe impact.

“By my count, I have cast 25 votes,” on Fukushima-related issues, Ostendorff said. All are a matter of public record, and that’s one way regulators establish accountability, the commissioner said.

“I’m disappointed as to where the country is, on not having a geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste,” and that’s a failure of government, Ostendorff said. The commissioner added that he was proud of the work that NRC has done in connection with the proposed license and review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility in Nevada.

NRC staff has done “a superb job” in doing various background analysis reports on Yucca Mountain, Ostendorff. He added that he personally would favor including money in the NRC budget to work toward completion of the Yucca Mountain licensing process.

Ostendorff was sworn in for a second term as an NRC commissioner on July 7, 2011, to a term ending on June 30, 2016. His first term was from April 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

Ostendorff has had a career as an engineer, legal counsel, policy advisor, and naval officer. Before joining NRC, Ostendorff served as the Director of the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy and as Director of the Board on Global Science and Technology at the National Academies.

Ostendorff came to the National Academies after serving as Principal Deputy Administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration from April 2007 until April 2009. From 2003 to 2007, he was a member of the staff of the House Armed Services Committee.

Ostendorff was an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1976 until he retired in 2002 with the rank of Captain. During his naval career, he commanded an attack submarine, an attack submarine squadron and served as Director of the Division of Mathematics and Science at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Ostendorff’s departure marks the latest changing of the guard at NRC. He will become the fourth member of the five-member commission to depart NRC, for one reason or another, since 2014. There is currently one vacancy on the commission.

Chairman Stephen Burns and Commissioner Jeff Baran have been members of the commission for less than 18 months.

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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