Allison Macfarlane Confirmed by U.S. Senate to Lead Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Posted: July 5, 2012 at 10:10 am, Last Updated: July 5, 2012 at 10:21 am

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By Tara Laskowski  

Allison Macfarlane. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Allison Macfarlane, associate professor in environmental science and policy, was confirmed last week by the U.S. Senate as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. President Barack Obama nominated Macfarlane for the position in late May.

Macfarlane is a leading expert on nuclear policy and nuclear-waste disposal and has sat on National Academy of Sciences panels on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues.

She received her PhD in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992. A geologist by training, Macfarlane decided early on that she wanted to make a real impact on society, and so developed an interest in environmental policy.

She is now well known for her expertise on the policies and issues surrounding using Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a permanent geological repository for nuclear waste. Macfarlane’s co-edited book “Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste” was published by MIT Press in 2006.

In a statement to the university community, Mason Provost Peter Stearns said, “Professor Allison Macfarlane’s knowledge of nuclear policy and nuclear waste issues make her an excellent choice to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I know that everyone at Mason joins me in congratulating Dr. Macfarlane on being confirmed by the U.S. Senate for this important position. We wish her every success in this endeavor.”

In 2010, Macfarlane was one of 15 experts chosen by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to sit on a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. The commission provided recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

Macfarlane plans to take a leave from her position at Mason to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Her appointment begins July 9.

Write to Robin Herron at

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