As reported by the Associated Press, the NRC announced that President Obama has appointed NRC Commissioner Stephen G. Burns (photo, left) to serve as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He will begin as Chairman on Jan. 1.
Burns worked as a lawyer at NRC for 33 years, including as chief counsel to NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko from 2009 to 2012.
The nuclear industry, and its supporters in Congress, such as U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), opposed Burns' confirmation to the NRC Commission due to his support of former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko's invoking of emergency powers at NRC once the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began.
From 2012 to 2014, Burns served as head of legal affairs for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).
It was that latter stint that moved Beyond Nuclear to oppose Burns' nomination and confirmation to the NRC Commission in the first place.
Citing a conflict of interest, Beyond Nuclear had previously called for NRC Commissioner William Magwood IV's immediate resignation from the Commission, once he had been tapped to direct the NEA. In fact, a coalition of groups called on Magwood to retroactively recuse himself from all Commission votes, dating back to when he began courting NEA for the position.
NEA is a nuclear power promotional institution. NRC Commissioners are supposed to regulate safety, not promote nuclear power. In fact, NRC was created, in the mid-1970s, to be the regulator of nuclear safety, while the U.S. Department of Energy was tapped to promote nuclear power. This happened after the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was disbanded, after having been tasked with doing both at the same time -- a conflict of interest in which promotions most often trumped safety regulation.
The revolving door between NEA and NRC is inappropriate, blurring the lines between the promotion of the nuclear power industry, and the regulation of safety.