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Christopher Hanson appointed chairman of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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Platts North American Electricity Analytics Service

Christopher Hanson appointed chairman of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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Replaces Kristine Svinicki

Nuclear technologies are 'evolving': Hanson

Hanson had worked in Senate staff

Washington — Christopher Hanson was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the NRC said Jan. 23 in a statement.

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"I remain committed to ensuring that we continue to work collaboratively under our authorities established by Congress to assure the public adequate protection of health and safety in carrying out our regulatory responsibilities," Hanson said in the statement. He has been a member of the commission since June, and replaces Kristine Svinicki, a Republican, who left the commission Jan. 20 after serving as chairman since 2017. She did not announce her future plans.

Svinicki was originally appointed as a commissioner in 2007 by then President George W. Bush, making her the longest serving member of the commission in the agency's history.

Hanson said Jan. 23: "I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki's many accomplishments as the commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future."

The White House has not announced who will be appointed to fill the vacant fifth seat on the commission. The commission can continue to conduct business with a quorum of at least three commissioners.

Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the US nuclear power industry's trade group, congratulated Hanson and said in a statement Jan. 24 that "it is essential that the NRC, led by Chairman Hanson, recognize the important role the agency plays within broader U.S. climate and energy policy.

The agency "should continue efforts that make possible the innovation we see across the nuclear industry. Over the next decade, we will see the deployment of next-generation nuclear technologies," and "modernizing regulatory approaches will advance future reactor designs and sustain the carbon-free nuclear energy we have today," Korsnick said.

Before joining the commission, Hanson was most recently a professional staff member on the Senate appropriations committee. Hanson was a senior adviser in the Office of Nuclear Energy at the US Department of Energy, and prior to that was a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, there can be no more than three NRC commissioners from any single political party and they serve staggered five-year terms. Commissioner Jeff Baran is a Democrat. Commissioners Annie Caputo and David Wright are Republicans.

Caputo's term expires June 30. Baran's and Wright's terms expire in 2023 and 2025, respectively.

NRC commissioners must be confirmed by the US Senate, but the president has discretion to appoint any currently serving commissioner chairman without further congressional approval.