Former NRC chairman Allison Macfarlane—nuclear agnostic or opponent?

November 17, 2021, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe



As noted by Newswire yesterday, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Allison Macfarlane describes herself as “agnostic” on the subject of nuclear energy. In the view of some, however, there is a more accurate way to describe Macfarlane’s nuclear stance.

In a November 15 blog post, Breakthrough Institute cofounder Ted Nordhaus suggests that Macfarlane can be considered a face of the modern antinuclear movement, the typical representative of which, he says, is not “a hippie with a No Nukes sign,” but rather “a highly credentialed progressive policy wonk, a lawyer, or academic, or journalist, who often claims not to be opposed to nuclear energy at all.”

Nordhaus continues: “The problem with nuclear energy, in this rendition, is not the risk of a ‘China syndrome’–style meltdown, it’s that nuclear power plants are just too darn expensive to build.” (Earlier this year, Macfarlane penned an article for Foreign Affairs in which she argued that there’s not enough time for nuclear innovation to save the planet from climate change.)

Blunt blogging: “The entire regulatory apparatus atop which Macfarlane briefly sat, a role that she continues to trade upon for her credibility on the subject, has been the primary obstacle to nuclear innovation for decades. The way that NRC’s mission was defined in the mid-70s, the way that the commission has interpreted that mission, and the black hole of regulatory and bureaucratic processes that were constructed based on that interpretation of the mission have, practically, made it nearly impossible to commercialize a new nuclear reactor, advanced or otherwise, since the commission’s inception in 1975.”

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