- Allison M. Macfarlane, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), announced on Tuesday that she will step down from her post on Jan. 1, 2015 with more than three years left in her term.
- Upon her departure, Macfarlane will become director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University.
- Macfarlane told the Washington Post that the "great offer" from the university enticed her to step down, but sources close to the NRC chair say she also wants to spend more time with her ailing mother.
Macfarlane has served as NRC chair since July 9, 2012 and is a former professor at George Mason University. “I accomplished what I wanted to do at the NRC,” Macfarlane told the Post, “and I really miss academia.”
Observers say Macfarlane established a more collegial atmosphere during her time as head of the NRC after the controversial style of her predecessor, Gregory B. Jaczko. She supervised the implementation of new nuclear power safety measures prompted by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, such as additional protective equipment for reactors and additional flood and earthquake protections.
The Post reports that Macfarlane also lost several votes as the head of the five-member commission. In particular, she differed with the majority of her colleagues on recommendations that reactors add filtered vents to capture radioactive materials in a disaster—a vote she lost 3-2. She also supported expedited transfers of used fuel rods from cooling plants to dry storage casks, but was the only member of the NRC to vote for it.
Under her leadership, the NRC also adopted a new rule on long-term nuclear waste storage to replace one voided by an appeals court in D.C.
“I came to the Commission with the mission of righting the ship after a tumultuous period and ensuring that the agency implemented lessons learned from the tragic accident at Fukushima Daiichi, so that the American people can be confident that such an accident will never take place here,” Macfarlane said in a statement.