In a July 1 letter to President Biden, ANS President Steven Nesbit and ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy stated that a full complement of five commissioners is essential to the effectiveness of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in protecting public health and safety while enabling the deployment and applications of nuclear technology.
Details: Nesbit and Piercy urged Biden to act expeditiously to fill the vacancies created by the departure of Kristine Svinicki in January and Annie Caputo in June, leaving the NRC with only three commissioners. (The NRC requires a quorum of at least three commissioners.) Nesbit and Piercy point out that the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 established a five-person commission to run the NRC, stating, “It is important that the commission operate with its full complement of five members.”
NRC commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate for staggered five-year terms, and no more than three may be from the same political party. The current commission consists of one Republican, David Wright, and two Democrats, Jeff Baran and Christopher Hanson. Kristine Svinicki, who had served as chairman from January 2017 to January 2021, and Annie Caputo are both Republicans.
Deeper dive: The ANS leaders also point out the importance of the next nominees’ background, experience, and qualifications (the backgrounds of the NRC commissioners were discussed in detail in the February issue of Nuclear News). They said that with Caputo’s departure, the NRC has no remaining commissioners with a strong technical foundation. ANS Position Statement 77 states, “It is not essential that all commissioners be scientists or engineers, but the nature of commission responsibilities makes a technical background a highly desirable trait.”
They said it: “To restore the needed balance, the White House should seek nominees who are scientists or engineers with significant, recognized accomplishments in their field,” Nesbit and Piercy wrote. “Fortunately, the nation has many such qualified candidates, including Ms. Caputo.”