Getting settled in

Dr. Allison Macfarlane

It’s been a little over four weeks since I was sworn in as chairman of the NRC, and to describe it as busy would be putting it mildly.

I have so far had the opportunity to visit our regional office in Atlanta, the NRC training facility in Chattanooga, and go to the North Anna nuclear plant. That’s the one that is near the site of the earthquake that shook much of the East Coast a year ago. And, I had the opportunity to meet with a number of local officials near that plant and some groups that have an interest in the facility.

I’ve been staffing my office, getting briefings on the major issues before the Commission, and making decisions on many of them. I have led two Commission meetings, including one today on post-Fukushima safety improvements for U.S. reactors, invested time in detailed meetings with my four Commission colleagues, and also spent time on Capitol Hill visiting with Members of Congress who have an interest in the work we do here at the NRC.

There are two things that strike me about the NRC as I am settling into this job. The first is there are a number of ongoing issues that will play out over a period of years that must be managed, chief among them getting the Fukushima-related safety improvements built into the 104 reactors that currently exist in this country.

The second is the degree of dedication in the men and women at the NRC and the values they hold. There are 4,000 people in this agency who think safety, think about protecting people and the environment, each and every day. For them this is a calling, and Americans can be proud of the work they are doing, starting with the NRC inspectors who work the plants every day to the contract specialist making sure our employees get the support they need. I hope they will feel comfortable introducing themselves when they run into me on the Metro, the cafeteria or on the elevator.

Okay, there is one other thing that strikes me. This place is awash in acronyms, few of which mean anything to the average American. One of my goals – in addition to getting the important policy matters dealt with and being supportive of our staff – is to have this agency communicate more in plain, simple and understandable language. I’m a scientist, with a doctorate, and even I need the cheat sheet to figure out what some of these abbreviations mean.

Allison Macfarlane
Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission