05/30/2013 - 16:18

What’s next for the NRC? A conversation with Allison Macfarlane

In this interview, Allison Macfarlane—the new chair for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a former commissioner for the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future—talks to the Bulletin during her first weeks on the job. She brings her experience full circle by reviewing what the commission accomplished in terms of managing waste, and how it will be in the hands of Congress, not the NRC, to move forward and make something substantial of the commission’s efforts. The NRC, she notes, will then be tasked with regulating new developments, like centralized interim storage for nuclear waste. A geologist, Macfarlane talks about her optimism that a long-term nuclear waste repository will be sited—but she cautions that its placement should be based on sound and scientific analysis. She reviews what US nuclear safety means in a post-Fukushima world and mentions that earthquakes are not the primary safety risk to US nuclear power reactors; flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes are the natural disasters, she says, that the NRC will be focusing on in upcoming months.