Biden designates Hanson as the 18th NRC chairman

January 24, 2021, 12:37AMNuclear News

NRC commissioner Christopher T. Hanson participates in the commission briefing on the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: NRC

President Biden designated Christopher T. Hanson as the 18th chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the weekend. Hanson replaces Kristine Svincki who resigned from the NRC as chairman on January 20. Svinicki was the longest-serving commissioner in the agency's history (2008-2021).

“I am honored to have been selected by President Biden to serve as the next NRC chairman and to lead the talented women and men who oversee the licensing and regulation of our nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials,” said Hanson. “I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki’s many accomplishments as the commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future.”

The nomination: Hanson was nominated for a seat on the commission by President Trump in February of last year and confirmed by the Senate in May. He was sworn in on June 8 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Stephen Burns. Hanson will serve the remainder of Burns’ term, which expires on June 30, 2024.

Hanson’s history: Hanson has more than two decades of government and private sector experience in nuclear energy, fuel cycle, security, and radioactive waste issues. Prior to joining the NRC, he served as a staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Subcommittee under Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), and before that as a senior advisor in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Hanson also served as a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he led multiple engagements for government and industry.

NRC commissioner Christopher Hanson addresses stakeholders at the American Nuclear Society Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit, held on August 11. Photo: NRC

2020 ANS Utility Working Conference: Hanson was the final speaker at the 2020 UWC plenary session and discussed a range of topics. He talked about his time on Capitol Hill—where he served as a staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Subcommittee under Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and worked on the DOE’s accident tolerant fuel program—and what he intends to promote while serving as a commissioner at the NRC. Hanson declared his approval of reform, transformation, and innovation at the NRC. “The agency is hard at work to ensure that it is a modern, risk-informed regulator ready to meet the challenges presented by a rapidly changing and innovating nuclear industry,” he said.

Hanson concluded his remarks by providing his thoughts on risk-informed regulation and the NRC’s move in that direction. “The final ingredient, I think, in risk-informed regulation, and maybe the most important in my view is culture and diversity," he said. "Risk-informed regulation is really about characterizing uncertainty. There is necessarily a lot of professional and personal judgment implied in that. And data is critical, but we all know data can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways. Having a staff of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints helps ensure that uncertainties are fully understood and characterized, so NRC can provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection.”

Watch some highlights from Hanson's talk at the 2020 Utility Working Conference below--the full recording is available to those that attended the meeting on the ANS meeting platform.

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