Better performance should be expected of new NRC chairwoman

Transparency will be the hallmark of her administration of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Allison MacFarlane assured U.S. senators before they voted a few days ago to confirm her for a five-year term as NRC chairwoman.

Let’s hope so. Pledges of transparency by politicians – and make no mistake, MacFarlane is one – have a way of not working out very well.

As President Barack Obama and liberal members of Congress prepare to intensify their war against the coal industry, health, safety and environmental concerns over nuclear power remain up in the air.

A key worry is how to dispose of spent fuel from nuclear power plants. Still highly radioactive, the fuel needs to be deposited in a safe, secure place.

Plans for such a depository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., had proceeded until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., helped scuttle them. As of now, the Obama administration has no plan for a national depository.

MacFarlane has been acting NRC chairwoman for about a year. The man she succeeded, Gregory Jaczko, bullied fellow commissioners, kept secrets from them and sometimes acted on his own without informing them.

A much better performance should be demanded from MacFarlane, both in terms of transparency and solving the nuclear industry’s problems.