Say Goodbye, Commissioner Svinicki

By Kennedy Maize

Washington, D.C., 19 April 2012 — Advice to NRC commissioner Kristine Svinicki: it’s time to start polishing that resume. Your days on the regulatory commission are over.

The term of Republican Svinicki, who led an unsuccessful attempted regicide of NRC chairman Greg Jaczko last year, expires June 30. Under the law, the commission is designed to be made up of five members, with three from the political party of the sitting president, and two from the minority. They are presidential appointments, subject to Senate confirmation.

NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki

The odds that Svinicki will be renominated to a second five-year term are slim and none, and Slim just left the room, headed toward Nevada. Today’s Wall Street Journal notes that the White House has not yet renominated Svinicki, a favorite of the nuclear industry. The article quotes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wondering why the Obama administration hasn’t put her nomination on the table, saying any further delay is “unacceptable,” a term of little meaning given the way nominations have moved in the grid-locked Senate. McConnell wondered, disingenuously, if Sivnicki’s name was being held up because she was a “whistleblower” in the Jaczko fracus. The article correctly noted that Jaczko, a PhD in physics, was the science advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before named to the NRC.

But today’s Huffington Post has the details of the reason why Svinicki’s days in White Flint are done. HuffPo, which coincidentally won a Pulitzer Prize this week for national reporting, explains how deeply nuclear engineer Svinicki has fallen into Washington doo-doo. The online news service quoted Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson: “Senator Reid opposes Commissioner Svinicki’s renomination because she lied to Congress about her past work on Yucca Mountain. Furthermore, Commissioner Svinicki has an abysmal record on nuclear safety, demonstrating that she puts the interests of the nuclear industry ahead of the safety of American citizens. Senator Reid has consistently supported qualified Republicans for the commission and is open to supporting others, but Commissioner Svinicki has disqualified herself and does not deserve to be renominated.”

She’s history. Even if the White House renominates her, which could happen, the nomination would not survive Reid’s opposition.

But it hardly matters. The NRC can function just fine with four, or even three, members. The partisan balance is irrelevant, as Jaczko is the lone nuclear skeptic on the commission, despite the presence of two other Democrats, commissioners William Magwood and George Apostolakis.