About the Nuclear Regulatory Commission


With Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s recent resignation, now is a critical time to review the role and history of the Commission. Below, read some of the history of the NRC, and also make sure to read this post: Change is Coming to the NRC for context on recent developments.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is an independent five-member panel responsible for oversight of reactor safety, licensing of nuclear facilities, and management of low and high-level nuclear waste.

Commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Terms are five years and Commissioners can serve a total of two consecutive terms. Commissioners appointed to serve out the remainder of an outgoing Commissioner’s term are subject to the end date of the outgoing Commissioner’s term.

Members of the Commission must represent a cross section of political ideologies. No more than three out of the five Commissioners may be affiliated with the same political party. In this case, at least two of President Obama’s five nominees cannot be affiliated with the Democratic party. Commissioners Svinicki and William Ostendorff are Republicans. Commissioners William Magwood, George Apostolakis and outgoing Chairman Jaczko are Democrats.

Commissioner bios are below, listed in order of appointment.

Commissioner Kristine Svinicki

NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki

On May 8, President Obama re-nominated Kristine Svinicki to second term as an NRC Commissioner. She was first appointed by President George W. Bush and sworn in March 28, 2008 for a term ending June 30, 2012.

Svinicki worked as a nuclear engineer in several U.S. Department of Energy Offices, including the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology; the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management; and DOE’s Idaho Operations Office, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Before serving at the DOE, she worked as an energy engineer with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. She was also staff member in the U.S. Senate.

Svinicki holds a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan. She is a member of the American Nuclear Society, where she served on the Special Committee on Nuclear Non-Proliferation. (Source: official NRC bio)

Commissioner William Magwood

NRC Commissioner William Magwood

William Magwood was appointed by President Obama and sworn in April 1, 2010, for a term that expired on June 30, 2010. He was re-nominated to a second term that expires June 30, 2015.

Before his appointment to the Commission, Magwood was Director of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Office. Magwood also headed the Energy Department’s “Nuclear Power 2010,” “Generation IV.”Prior to his appointment as director of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Magwood served in the Nuclear Energy office as Associate Director for Technology and Program Planning.

In the private sector, Magwood was responsible for electric utility research and nuclear policy programs at the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C. He was also a scientist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Magwood holds a B.S. degree in physics and a B.A. degree in English from Carnegie-Mellon University and an M.F.A. degree from the University of Pittsburgh. (Source: official NRC bio)

Commissioner William Ostendorff

NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff

William Ostendorff was nominated to the Commission by President Obama and sworn in April 1, 2010 for a term expiring on June 30, 2011. He was re-nominated and sworn in for a second term that expires June 30, 2016.

Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Ostendorff served as Director of the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy and as Director of the Board on Global Science and Technology at the National Academies.

Before serving at the National Academies, Ostendorff was Principal Deputy Administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration and a staff member of the House Armed Services Committee, where he served as counsel and staff director for the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. He was also an officer in the U.S. Navy, where he commanded a submarine squadron and was Director of the Division of Mathematics and Science at the United States Naval Academy.

Mr. Ostendorff holds a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the United States Naval Academy and law degrees from the University of Texas and Georgetown University. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas. (Source: official NRC bio)

Commissioner George Apostolakis

NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis

George Apostolakis was appointed by President Obama and sworn in on April 23, 2010, for a term ending June 30, 2014.

Prior to his appointment to the NRC, Dr. Apostolakis was a professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and a professor of Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was also a member and former Chairman of the statutory Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards of the NRC. Apostolakis served as the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal Reliability Engineering and System Safety and founded the International Conferences on Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management.

Apostolakis earned his degree in electrical engineering from the National Technical University in Athens, Greece in 1969. He earned a master’s degree in engineering science in 1970 and a Ph.D. in engineering science and applied mathematics in 1973, both from the California Institute of Technology. (Source: official NRC bio)

Chairman Gregory Jaczko

Gregory Jaczko was nominated by George W. Bush and sworn in January 21, 2005. On May 13, 2009, Jaczko was elevated to Chairman by President Obama. His term expires on June 30, 2013. On May 21, 2012 he announced he would resign his post. His resignation becomes effective once his replacement is confirmed.

Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Jaczko was appropriations director for U.S. Senator Harry Reid and was the Senator’s science policy advisor. Before joining Reid’s staff, Jaczko was a congressional science fellow in the office of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey. He also was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where he taught science and policy.

Jaczko earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from Cornell University, and a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Source: official NRC bio)

Allison Macfarlane (Nominee)

Allison Macfarlane, NRC Commission Chair Nominee

Allison Macfarlane is an associate professor of environmental science and policy as George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She received a Ph.D. in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has held a number of fellowships at institutions such as the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College; the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University; and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. She is was also an International Peace and Security fellow at the Social Science Research Council-MacArthur Foundation, and served on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons panels at the National Academy of Sciences.

She was one of the members of the White House’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which assessed Yucca Mountain as the nation’s spent fuel repository.

While Macfarlane supports nuclear energy, her views on Yucca Mountain are in alignment with Senator Reid. She is author of the book, Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste.

Macfarlane also serves on the Keystone Center’s Energy Board. (Source: George Mason University bio)

>>Related: Change is Coming to the NRC.