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Obama Names Yucca Mountain Critic Allison Macfarlane To Lead NRC

President Barack Obama has nominated an expert on nuclear waste to lead the federal agency that regulates the nation’s nuclear power plants.

She is Allison Macfarlane, who served on a presidential commission that studied new strategies to manage nuclear waste. Macfarlane wrote a book in 2006 that raised technical questions about a proposed nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. She is an associate professor at George Mason University.

If confirmed by the Senate, Macfarlane would replace Gregory Jaczko as head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He announced his resignation this week after a tumultuous three-year tenure.

Jaczko pushed for sweeping safety reforms but came under fire for an unyielding management style that fellow commissioners and agency employees described as bullying. He is a Democrat and former congressional aide.

Activists concerned about the safety of the San Onofre nuclear power plant said they were disappointed with Jaczko's resignation.

Senator Barbara Boxer endorsed Macfarlane's nomination.

"Dr. Allison Macfarlane’s background and experience demonstrate that she has the strong commitment to safety that is so needed in this post-Fukushima era," Boxer said in a statement. "I look forward to proceeding with a joint hearing on the two NRC nominees in June.”

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