The Senate voted by unanimous consent on Friday to confirm a new chairwoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and to approve a second term for another NRC commissioner.
Allison Macfarlane, an associate professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, will now take the helm of the agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear-power industry, replacing Gregory Jaczko, who announced last month that he would step down when his successor was confirmed.
Republican NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki also was confirmed to a second five-year term on the commission.
The Senate approvals end a roller-coaster ride for the NRC, normally an obscure agency little noticed by the public. Following are key events that led to the change in leadership at the agency:
June 6, 2011 – NRC inspector general criticizes Chairman Gregory Jaczko for not being “forthcoming” with commissioners about the shutdown of the planned nuclear-waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Dec. 9 – House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., releases an October letter sent to the White House by the other four NRC commissioners, charging that Jaczko had created “a chilled work environment” by bullying staff and withholding information.
Dec. 13 – House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., urges President Obama to replace Jaczko.
Dec. 14 – Jaczko tells a House committee that he has no plans to resign.
Dec. 15 – Jaczko tells a Senate panel he is “mortified” by allegations that he verbally abused female employees.
Feb. 9 – Jaczko is the lone dissenter as the NRC approves licenses for two new reactors at a nuclear-power plant in Georgia.
March 15 – Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., threatens to “bring the Senate to a grinding halt” if Obama does not reappoint Republican Kristine Svinicki to the NRC.
March 30 – Jaczko is again the only vote against two new reactors for a nuclear plant in South Carolina.
April 18 – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., charges that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been pressuring the White House and other senators to stall Svinicki’s nomination to a new term.
April 19 – White House says that Svinicki will be nominated to a second term on the NRC.
April 20 – Jaczko holds a news conference to deny allegations that he has created a hostile work environment at the NRC.
May 21 – Jaczko announces he will resign as soon as a successor is confirmed by the Senate.
May 23 – Jaczko tells reporters he could remain on the NRC until his current term expires on June 30, 2013.
May 24 – The White House says that Obama plans to nominate Allison Macfarlane to head the NRC.
June 13 – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Macfarlane and Svinicki, with little to no fireworks.
June 21 – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee votes to confirm Macfarlane and Svinicki.
June 26 – The NRC inspector general issues a report, saying it found more than 15 examples of Jaczko using “intimidating and bullying tactics” to push his own objectives at the NRC.
June 28 – The Senate votes by unanimous consent to confirm Macfarlane and Svinicki to the NRC.