NRC?chief needs to do better job

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

Members of Congress of both parties are right to balk at President Barack Obama’s request for money to arm rebels fighting the Syrian regime. Clearly, some of the lawmakers have better memories and more strategic attitudes concerning the Middle East.

After many months of doing nothing to aid the Syrian rebels, Obama now wants to give them substantive help. But many lawmakers want to know more about his plan.

They are right to be skeptical. Some remember U.S. aid to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Much of it went with no questions asked to the Taliban, who used their military might to take over Afghanistan, installing one of the most repressive regimes in the world. There appear to be few, if any, guarantees U.S. aid to Syrian rebels would not fall into similarly hostile hands.

Then there is the matter of friendly countries such as Jordan, a staunch U.S. ally. That country shares a long border with Syria. What if militant Islamic rebels decide to topple the Jordanian government, too?

Before any U.S. aid goes to the rebels, lawmakers need to be satisfied it will not come back to haunt us.