Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Allison Macfarlane:

A New Face at the NRC

There has been much discussion in recent weeks and months, first, of the sometimes acrimonious interactions among the Commissioners at the NRC, and later, of the nomination of Allison Macfarlane, as a Commissioner and Chair of the NRC.  As of yesterday, we have a new Commission--Macfarlane has replaced Gregory Jaczko as a Commissioner and as Chair.  Macfarlane was sworn in yesterday as the 33rd individual to serve on the Commission since the NRC was created in 1975.

It is hopefully a time for healing within the NRC.  While many of us don't know much about Macfarlane, it is hard to imagine that the situation that has existed will continue.  What has been troubling to me is the number of negative comments I've heard about her even before she was confirmed.

Right now, I think the best course of action for all concerned--the other Commissioners, the NRC staff, licensees, and interested observers, is to give the new Chairman and the new Commission a chance.  Obviously, there will be some break-in period while Macfarlane gets to know her new job and establishes her working relationships with her fellow Commissioners and the NRC staff.

Hopefully, that will not be a long period, as the NRC faces a lot of issues.  Hopefully, Macfarlane will be able to restore to the Commission some of the spirit of collegiality that has distinguished it in the past.  And hopefully, Macfarlane will embody the true spirit of the Commission and review the issues before the Commission objectively and impartially. 

Macfarlane must be aware of the fact that she may not have much time.  She has been appointed to fill the remainder of Jaczko's term, which gives her exactly one year (to July 1, 2013).  If Obama loses the Presidential election this fall, she will certainly not stay on as Chairman (although she could be appointed for another term as a Commissioner).  If Obama wins, she may be reappointed, both as Commissioner and as Chairman, but whether she is reappointed may depend on what she is able to accomplish in the coming year.

In the meantime, those who have had their doubts about Macfarlane should give her the same chance they want her to give to the issues before the Commission--a fair and balanced review. 


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