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Nuclear Leadership Change

Quick nomination of new NRC chair suggests determination to improve management

1 min read
Nuclear Leadership Change

The announcement by the Obama administration that it would nominate Allison M. Macfarlane to be the next chairperson of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, just days after current NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko announced he would resign a year before his term was up, strongly suggests that Jaczko was squeezed out and that the administration urgently wants to improve management of the commission. Acceleration of Jaczko's replacement permits the administration to seek joint confirmation of Macfarlane and Kristine L. Svinicki, an incumbent commissioner appointed by President George W. Bush and now re-appointed for a second term by President Obama.

The selection of Macfarlane, a geologist who has specialized in nuclear waste management, may also suggest that the administration wants the NRC to speed up development of a plan for a permanent geologic disposal of spent nuclear fuels. Macfarlane co-edited a book on geological uncertainties affecting the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and she recently served on a blue ribbon panel assessing the country's nuclear future. The absence of a firm plan for long-term disposal of nuclear wastes is widely considered the most important single factor undermining public confidence in nuclear energy management. An associate professor at George Mason University, Macfarlane earned her doctorate at MIT and has held prestigious fellowships at Harvard and Stanford.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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