Obama nuke commission choice tells Senate he’s independent

“It is my firm opinion that the best service to the country and to the nuclear industry is to set a very, very high standard for safety and to do so in a way that the public has a great deal of confidence,” Magwood said after committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asked about the activists’ opposition to his nomination.

In prepared testimony, Magwood said that "maintaining uncompromisingly high levels of safety is the first and most important job of any organization that handles nuclear materials. I look forward to bringing these high expectations to the work of the NRC.”

Magwood later told Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that projects before the NRC would not present any conflicts of interest.

Magwood’s nomination comes as the NRC has begun reviewing a host of applications from power companies to build what would be the first new U.S. reactors in decades. President Obama is also calling for a $36 billion increase in federal loan guarantees for new plants.

The Project on Government Oversight, in an October letter to committee leaders, said Magwood “does not have the independence from the nuclear energy industry to effectively regulate the uses of nuclear materials and facilities in the United States, enforce standards necessary to protect health and safety and minimize danger to life or property, and hold licensees accountable for damage to property caused by nuclear accidents.”

But Magwood drew bipartisan praise at the hearing Tuesday. “I think it would be difficult for the president to find three better nominees,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), while Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said he was hopeful that all three would be confirmed.

Obama’s other two nominees for the five-person NRC are Massachusetts Institute of Technology nuclear science professor George Apostolakis, who is past chairman of NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and William Ostendorff, the former principal deputy administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Boxer said she hoped to move quickly on the nominees once they have submitted answers to written questions late this month.