The New York Times has reported that Wednesday's confirmation hearing on Dr. Allison Macfarlane, proposed by President Obama to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), will likely focus on "waste, waste, and earthquakes." Coincidentally coming on the heels of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruling last Friday, vacating the NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision," the already thorny high-level radioactive waste dilemma just got thornier.
If confirmed, Dr. Macfarlane would represent "a new day and a new age and a new way of looking at things,” as the first geologist ever to chair the NRC. One of the many risks thrown into the national spotlight in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe is whether or not U.S. atomic reactors east of the Rockies were actually built well enough to withstand earthquakes, now known possible at places such as Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City. With the impossiblity of evacuating more than 20 million people within 50 miles in the event of an emergency, significant earthquake fault lines have come to light in the vicinity of Indian Point, decades after the construction of its two still-operating reactors just 25-30 miles from midtown Manhattan.
Dr. Macfarlane also literally "wrote the book" on why Yucca Mountain is unsuitable as a high-level radioactive waste dumpsite. She edited Uncertainty Underground, a 2006 technical look at Yucca's hydrologic, geologic, seismic, volcanic, and many other flaws.