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Project on Government Oversight




NRC Needs Nuclear Power Regulators, Not Promoters

February 3, 2010 


POGO is opposing President Obama's nomination of William Magwood for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Along with two other of the President's nominees to the NRC, Mr. Magwood will come before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for a confirmation hearing on February 9, 2010. POGO is urging readers to contact the Committee and express opposition to Mr. Magwood’s nomination on the grounds that he does not have the independence from the nuclear power industry to regulate it, nor the security oversight background. 

In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a plan to build a new generation of nuclear power reactors. POGO does not take a stance on nuclear power, but does strongly believe that the regulatory body that licenses and inspects nuclear power reactors should be independent, active, and unconflicted. Mr. Magwood does not satisfy those key criteria.

Given his more than a dozen years promoting nuclear power, Mr. Magwood is not cut out to be a regulator of the industry. He served as the Director and Associate Director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy. There he promoted the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, a program to restart reprocessing of nuclear waste, which President Obama canceled because of nuclear proliferation concerns. (The NRC was created when the Atomic Energy Commission was abolished in 1974 and split into two agencies because its dual missions of promotion and regulation of nuclear power was recognized as an inherent conflict of interest. As a result, DOE was given the role of promoting nuclear power — largely in the office that Magwood ran for seven years — while the NRC was created to regulate, inspect, and enforce regulations upon the nuclear power industry.)

Since leaving government service in 2005, Mr. Magwood has been actively involved in efforts to advance the nuclear industry domestically and abroad. He founded Advanced Energy Strategies, which provides "expert advice and analysis of U.S. and international energy policy activities; nuclear industry developments and prospects; and supporting business development efforts." Mr. Magwood has also been an investor in and president of Secure Energy North America Corporation, a company that is "working with industry and investors to develop novel approaches to finance new nuclear power stations in the United States." There is very little public information on the web about either of these two companies.  

There is also evidence that Mr. Magwood will not effectively address the security threats that are a major issue facing the NRC. In 2004, POGO investigated the security at Argonne National Lab West (ANL-West), which contained 8-9 tons of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium. During that period, Mr. Magwood was the most senior official responsible for security at ANL-West. POGO found serious inadequacies. For example, POGO was told by multiple sources that the guard force at ANL-West was 50% undermanned and that ANL-West needed $1 million for quick security upgrades, but Headquarters Nuclear Energy refused them the funds.  

Tell Senate leadership that they should vote not to confirm Mr. Magwood to the NRC!

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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