Transparency is essential

Transparency will be the hallmark of her administration of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Allison MacFarlane assured U.S. senators before they voted recently 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.

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.