Nuclear nominee aims to end NRC acrimony
* Allison Macfarlane is Obama nominee for NRC chairman
* Says to aim for better relationship with colleagues
* Senate expected to confirm Macfarlane quickly
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - The geologist nominated as the new head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission told senators on Wednesday that she plans to forge a good relatiohship with her colleagues on the panel and end the acrimony that existed under her predecessor.
Allison Macfarlane, 48, was nominated to the top job by President Barack Obama last month after the resignation of Gregory Jaczko, whose tenure as chairman was marked by public criticisms about his abrasive management style from the four other members of the commission.
Macfarlane, an academic who teaches at George Mason University assured the panel in her prepared testimony that she plans to turn the page on the acrimonious chapter in the NRC's history, praising her colleagues.
"They are all talented individuals engaged in the high calling of public service, and I look forward to forging a collegial relationship with them, if confirmed," she said.
"An agency endowed with the public trust such as the NRC requires a respectful working environment to assure its integrity."
Macfarlane is expected to be confirmed quickly by the Senate in tandem with Republican commissioner Kristine Svinicki.
Svinicki's term expires on June 30, and Senate Republicans have made her reappointment to a five-year term a priority.
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QUESTIONS ABOUT EXPERIENCE
If confirmed, Macfarlane will complete the year left in Jaczko's term, taking charge at a time when the agency is forced to deal with finding a permanent storage site for nuclear waste.
The agency is also working on sweeping reforms that could cost the operators of aging power plants millions of dollars.
She was expected to face questions from Republican senators at the confirmation hearing about her opposition to a shuttered Nevada nuclear waste dump and her lack of experience running a large organization.
In her prepared statement, Macfarlane mentioned three other academics who have led the NRC in the past, and said her background in geology has prepared her for the job.
Last October, the other commissioners -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- took the unprecedented step of formally complaining to the White House about Jaczko's "increasingly problematic and erratic" management style.
Jaczko has said in his defense that he was "passionate about nuclear safety" and has denied the most explosive of the charges against him.
When he announced last month he would step down, serving only until his replacement was confirmed, he told Reuters his decision was "not at all" related to the strife at the agency. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jackie Frank)
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