published Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander ponders NRC chairman

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., perhaps the most pro-nuclear power U.S. senator, said last week he is still undecided about how he may vote on ratifying President Obama's nominee to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

President Barack Obama nominated Allison Macfarlane, a professor at Virginia's George Mason University who specializes in nuclear waste, to succeed NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, who is stepping down from the five-member panel after often differing with his colleagues. Macfarlane has been endorsed by the nuclear industry's chief trade association, the Nuclear Energy Institute, as well as nuclear power critics such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., hailed the nomination while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said she would be an improvement over the incumbent.

Alexander said nuclear power "is absolutely imperative for our country's future if we want lots of clean, cheap electricity, and I want to make sure she believes that, too."

The Tennessee Republican praised President Obama's other NRC board picks, claiming he "has done a good job with his last four nominees" to the NRC from both parties.

"The new nominee I do not know, and I've got to wait to see what her views are on nuclear safety," Alexander said last week following a speech to the Chattanooga Rotary Club.

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