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US NRC commissioner Magwood to depart for OECD Nuclear Energy Agency


William Magwood is leaving the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to become director general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency in September, NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner said Wednesday.

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Brenner did not say how much longer Magwood will remain on the five-member commission before departing for his new position in Paris.

NEA's mission statement says its purpose was "to assist its [31] member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes".

NEA also said it seeks to "provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD policy analyses in areas such as energy and sustainable development".

Magwood said in a statement: "It is a tremendous honor to have been the U.S. Government's candidate for this position and to have been selected as the seventh Director General to lead the NEA since it was formed in 1958. I have especially appreciated the strong support and encouragement I received from senior officials of the Administration to take on this assignment. When I join the NEA in September, I will take with me the vital lessons I have learned from my time at the finest safety regulator in the world -- the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

A senior NRC official said Magwood "has a number of commitments in the coming months as a commissioner. He is going to fulfill those before deciding on a departure date from the NRC." The comment was on background because the official is not authorized to discuss the timing of Magwood's departure.

Magwood, a Democrat, was appointed to NRC by President Barack Obama in April 2010, and was later reappointed for a five-year term ending June 30, 2015. He previously served seven years as director of nuclear energy at the US Department of Energy.

Magwood has also taken an interest in moving NRC's safety regulation of US nuclear power plants toward a more risk-informed basis -- that is, grounding more of the agency's safety requirements on insights from tools such as probabilistic risk assessments, computer models that calculate the probability of various accident scenarios.

In October 2011, Magwood and the other three commissioners -- George Apostolakis, a Democrat, and William Ostendorff and Kristine Svinicki, both Republicans -- said in a letter to then-White House Chief of Staff William Daley that the behavior and management practices of then-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, a Democrat, "have become increasingly problematic and erratic...[and are] creating a chilled work environment at the NRC".

The letter was released that December by the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Later that month, then-US Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat for whom Jaczko had worked as a staffer, said the four commissioners had attempted a coup against Jaczko by sending the letter to the White House because of the chairman's strong stance on safety issues. Jaczko denied the allegations but resigned in May 2012.

Apostolakis's term expires June 30, so the Obama administration will need to nominate two new commissioners in coming months. The Senate must approve those nominees. Apostolakis would not say last week whether he was interested in serving another term on the commission.

--Steven Dolley,
--Edited by Dan Lalor,