Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Who Is Gregory Jaczko?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

On May 13, 2009, President Obama turned to Gregory B. Jaczko, a PhD physicist with critical views of the nuclear power industry to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is the foremost agency overseeing atomic energy. Senate confirmation was not required because Jaczko was already a member of the commission. At present, he is the only Democrat on the NRC, but that is expected to change soon. Former Chairman Dale Klein and Kristine Svinicki are Republicans, but two seats on the five-member commission are vacant. Although no more than three members of any one political party can be appointed to the commission, it is expected that President Obama will name two additional Democrats, creating a 3-2 majority.  

Born October 29, 1970, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and raised in Albany, New York, Dr. Jaczko earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and philosophy from Cornell University in 1993, and a doctorate in theoretical particle physics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1999. Always interested in politics as well as science, while still at graduate school Jaczko applied for an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, which paid him to work with Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) as a Congressional Science Fellow. At the same time, he worked as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University teaching science and policy. 
After completing his doctorate, Jaczko obtained his first professional position, advising the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on issues regarding nuclear energy. He moved from the Committee to working for Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), first as appropriations director and later as the Senator’s science policy advisor. During that time, Reid was leading the fight against a proposal, still championed by many, to store spent nuclear waste at a facility to be built at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. While working for Reid, Jaczko served as the Senator’s point man on that issue. Not surprisingly, many Nevadans, as well as critics of nuclear power everywhere, oppose the plan. 
On January 21, 2005, as part of a larger political deal between Democrats in the Senate, who objected to numerous administration appointments, and the administration of President George W. Bush, Jaczko was sworn in as a commissioner of the NRC. The fact that Reid had ascended to the post of Senate Minority Leader (he became Senate Majority Leader in 2007 owing to Democratic victories in the 2006 elections) was clearly a crucial factor in Jaczko’s appointment. He was nominated and confirmed for a full five-year term in 2008, pursuant to a similar understanding between Senator Reid and the President.  Although he is known as a critic of nuclear power, one industry insider admitted that Jaczko “has always had an open door.” 
Jaczko is married and resides in Washington, D.C. 
- Matt Bewig
Former Reid Aide Named Chairman of NRC (by Steve Tetreault, Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Interview article (by Meghan Anzelc, American Physical Society)


B Mused 13 years ago
You note that many Nevadans oppose the plan (specified in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, and by a 2002 joint resolution of Congress) to build the repository in Yucca Mountain. It must also be noted that there is support for the project in the county (Nye) in which the repository would be built. So, strictly speaking, this is not necessarily a NIMBY problem. Most of the objection seems to be from the more populous Las Vegas area where I sense the true concerns are transportation through that area and the potential stigma effect on the region and State's economy by proximity (90 miles) to Yucca or some transportation accident en route.

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