Not that it means there will be a quick confirmation, but the Obama Administration announced that it will nominate Allison Mcfarlane to become Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Mcfarlane is currently an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. She will replace Gregory Jaczko, who has served on the NRC since 2005, and has been chair since 2009.
Jaczko’s departure, while sudden, is arguably not unexpected. As this New York Times article notes, Jaczko has drawn a number of complaints during his tenure, including an incredibly rare letter to Congress from the four other Commissioners at the agency complaining of his management. It would be surprising if this departure (and the recruitment of Macfarlane) hasn’t been in the works for months. Even though there is a pending nomination of a Republican Commissioner (most federal commissions have a 3-2 split of commissioners by party, which means these days that nominations stand a chance of advancing if they move forward in dual-partisan pairs), I have little faith in the Senate to act quickly.
In other appointment news, Arun Majumdar, the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) will step down next month. As his nomination as Undersecretary at the Department of Energy was effectively killed, this departure is understandable. ARPA-E and other direct technology support from the Department of Energy has been a consistent target of skepticism in Congress from those who think the federal government has no business supporting anything besides basic research (usually out of concern for crowding out private capital).