Trump appoints Kristine Svinicki as chair of Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Dive Brief:

  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has been appointed chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Donald Trump, Platts reports.

  • Svinicki replaces current chairman, Stephen Burns, effective immediately. Burns will remain on the NRC along with fellow Commissioner Jeffery Baran, while two seats remain vacant.

  • Svinicki, a Republican, was appointed to the commission by President George W. Bush in 2008 and appointed to a second five-year term by President Barack Obama in 2012. 

Dive Insight:

Svinicki’s appointment comes as the nuclear power industry is under increasing pressure. Existing plants in deregulated markets are increasingly challenged by lower-cost gas generation, new build plants are facing delays and cost overruns, such as Southern Co.’s Vogtle plant in Georgia.

Svinicki is a nuclear engineer who spent more than 10 years as a Senate aide prior to her appointment at NRC, where she advised Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and former Senator John Warner (R-VA.) on the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

Svinicki's reappointment in 2012 caused some controversy in the Senate, as President Obama split with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), then the majority leader. Reid long opposed plans for a nuclear waste facility at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, a project which Svinicki supports. 

Burns is an Independent, who was nominated to the commission by Obama in November 2014 and appointed to serve as chairman starting Jan. 1, 2015. His term as commissioner ends in June 2019. Baran is a Democrat whose term ends in June 2018. 

NRC commissioners must be approved by the Senate, but the president has sole authority to appoint a chairman from among the sitting members of the commission.

The NRC requires a quorum of at three commissioners and no more than three may be from the same political party. There are currently two seats vacant on the five-member commission.

A similar situation exists on the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, where three seats could become vacant after Chairman Norman Bay steps down Feb. 3, if the president does not name a replace,ent.  

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Filed Under: Generation Regulation & Policy