A coalition of environmental organizations supporting regulatory and legislative change to accelerate the licensing and deployment of new advanced nuclear reactors in the United States spoke out on June 20 against the renomination of Jeff Baran to serve another five-year term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The groups—Build Nuclear Now, the Breakthrough Institute, Generation Atomic, Nuclear New York, and Green Nuclear Deal—pointed to Baran’s pattern of actions that the groups say contradict his claimed support for bipartisan solutions to modernize the country’s nuclear energy infrastructure.
The groups noted that despite those repeated claims before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee conducted as part of his 2018 and 2023 confirmations to the NRC, Baran’s record shows his vote consistently being the sole vote against reasonable steps to improve the efficiency of the NRC’s regulations, hindering the deployment of new nuclear.
The Senate is set to consider the forthcoming vacancy at the NRC following the June 14 placement of Baran’s nomination on the Senate executive calendar.
Arguments: The opposing groups list seven items that argue against Baran’s reappointment:
1. Baran was the sole vote against updating the NRC’s guidance for siting smaller and safer advanced nuclear reactors that would allow advanced reactors to replace shut-down fossil fuel power plants more easily.
2. Baran was the sole vote against an NRC staff proposal to align emergency preparedness requirements with the reduced risk associated with advanced reactors.
3. Baran was the sole vote against developing a common-sense environmental review document for advanced reactors.
4. Baran opposed streamlining environmental regulations. He wrote, “I do not support guidance changes aimed at reducing the length and detail of National Environmental Policy Act environmental reviews. The agency has often struggled with including sufficient detail in these important reviews. Efforts to ‘streamline’ environmental impact statements would be counterproductive and could have significant adverse unintended consequence.”
5. Baran supported planning for extremely unlikely hypothetical accidents.
6. Baran supported basing the new 10 CFR Part 53 on the current 10 CFR Parts 50 and 52, even though the new framework was supposed to be innovative.
7. Baran supported unnecessarily increasing regulations on the current fleet of reactors.
Quote: “We need good-faith commissioners on the NRC who are going to act in the interest of the American people,” said Ted Nordhaus, founder and executive director of the Breakthrough Institute. “The status quo is denying the American people access to clean, affordable energy, and the NRC needs to be led by commissioners who recognize the evolution of nuclear energy technologies and the need for change. Rather than confirm Commissioner Baran, we strongly support considering an alternative candidate with the necessary vision, qualities, and character to lead the NRC into the future and address the imminent challenges faced by our country and the world.”