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Trump appoints NRC commissioner Svinicki as agency's chair

President Donald Trump has appointed Commissioner Kristine Svinicki as the new chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and immediate replacement of current chairman Stephen Burns, an NRC spokesman confirmed.

Svinicki, a Republican, was first appointed to the NRC by President George W. Bush in 2008 and reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2012 for a five-year term that expires June 30. Svinicki's predecessor, Burns, was appointed as an independent by Obama in November 2014 before being selected to lead the commission at the start of 2015. Burns' current term expires in June 2019.

Svinicki's appointment as chair was expected among industry insiders. Rich Powell, managing director of the conservative pro-nuclear ClearPath lobbying group, said in a December 2016 interview that the NRC under Svinicki's chairmanship would become more "pro-nuclear," "more practical" and "output-oriented." The Nuclear Energy Institute has recommended that the Trump administration put the NRC on a "more businesslike footing."

The U.S. president has the authority to name a chairman from among sitting commissioners but new commissioners must be approved by the Senate. Currently two seats of the five-member commission are vacant. Trump will have the chance to nominate three commissioners his first year in office.

A quorum of at least three commissioners is required for the NRC to conduct business and no more than three commissioners can be from any single political party. The other remaining commissioner and lone Democrat, Jeff Baran, was appointed in October 2014 for a term that expires in June 2018.

Svinicki's appointment and Burns' service were welcomed in a joint statement issued by House Subcommittee on Energy Chairman Fred Upton, R.-Mich., and House Subcommittee on Environment Chairman John Shimkus, R-Ill.

"The NRC plays a vital role in overseeing our nation's fleet of commercial nuclear power plants, as well as many other uses of radioactive technology throughout our economy. We are confident Commissioner Svinicki will bring exceptional leadership to the organization," said Upton and Shimkus. "We also appreciate the service of Chairman Stephen Burns during the two years of his tenure as NRC Chairman. Chairman Burns guided the 'Project Aim 2020' initiative to properly align the agency's budget and staffing with the licensing and regulatory needs of NRC's licensees."

Svinicki, who is a nuclear engineer, previously worked at the Wisconsin Public Service Commission and later in the U.S. Department of Energy's Washington, D.C., Offices of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, and of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, as well as its Idaho Operations Office, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She is also a member of the American Nuclear Society, where she served two terms on the ANS Special Committee on Nuclear Non-Proliferation.