Though it seemed likely that President Barack Obama would want to avoid nominating a new chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, opening up a confirmation battle during the presidential campaign, the White House wasted no time. On Thursday, Obama nominated Allison Macfarlane, an academic expert on nuclear issues.
Macfarlane is an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She served on a presidential commission on nuclear waste and is a critic of the plan to bury spent nuclear fuel in Nevada's Yucca Mountain. That should endear her to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a strong opponent of the Yucca storage site.
If the Senate confirms her, she will replace Gregory Jaczko, who has announced his resignation. Jaczko strongly favored tightening safety rules after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan last year. The other four commissioners were far less inclined to change current practice. The four voted earlier this year to license two new nuclear reactors in Georgia. Jaczko was the only no vote.
The Senate should act on Macfarlane's nomination expeditiously.