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Reagan Win Blocks NRC Appointment

By Robert O. Boorstin

The election of Ronald Reagan has "effectively killed" the nomination of Albert Carnesale, professor of Public Policy, to head the controversial Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), congressional analysts said yesterday.

President Carter this summer nominated Carnesale, who co-authored the study which has served as the basis for the Carter administration's nuclear energy policy, to serve as chairman of the five-man agency which sets standards for the nuclear industry.

Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Howard H. Baker (R-Tenn.) had successfully blocked Carnesale's nomination in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since August, but Reagan's election means "he's not going anywhere," a source in the committee said yesterday.

The nomination was "held up by the Republicans in anticipation of a Reagan victory, and it looks like their strategy paid off, a source in the NRC, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday. "It looks like Reagan will appoint whomever he deems appropriate," the source said.

Carnesale "was a victim of circumstance," the source said. "Any other year he would have sailed through."

Carnesale, who will continue to teach and serve as associate director of the Kennedy School of Government's Center for Science and International Affairs, said yesterday he does "not expect any action to be taken during a lame duck session, nor would I encourage it."

"In light of the controversial and emotional nature of nuclear energy, I don't think it would be wise to consider such a nomination," he added.

Safety First

When he was nominated, Carnesale said, "the first item of business is assuring the public health and safety," and he believes the agency should conduct a thorough review of emergency procedures at the nation's nuclear power facilities.

That position--and Carnesale's academic background--evidently made pro-nuclear senators in the committee "sit on the nomination," another source said.

Lobbyists for the nuclear industry said yesterday Reagan will probably choose a Republican with a background in industry or engineering for the post. Those mentioned include Daniel Lufkin, a former Connecticut state official and Kenneth Davis of the Bechtel Corporation.

Although observes said they think Reagan will appoint a pro-nuclear Republican to the post, they agreed that his nominee would not be stridently pro-nuclear. A spokesman for the Reagan transition team said yesterday no action has been taken on finding a nominee.

The Senate subcommittee on nuclear regulation confirmed Carnesale's nomination easily, but Baker and other senators, including Sen. James A. McClure (R-Idaho), had prevented the nomination from reaching the floor.

Baker based his objection on Carnesale's opposition to development of breeder reactors, the first of which is slated to be built in Baker's home state, at Clinch River, Tennessee.

Industrial and environmental lobbyists had disagreed over Carnesale's nomination, with some believing Carnesale was too opinionated a choice and others pushing his nomination because they though the NRC, criticized for its handling of the Three Mile Island incident, needed strong guidance immediately.

A staff member of the nuclear regulation subcommittee said yesterday she would be "very, very surprised" if the nomination were introduced when the Senate reconvenes for its last session during the Carter administration, adding that only budget matters will be discussed.

The Republican success at blocking Carnesale's nomination indicates that "even in a Republican-controlled Senate, a minority could block a nomination for some time," Carl Walske, chairman of the Atomic Industrial Forum, said yesterday.

"The Reagan group is pretty receptive," Walske said. "I've got a hunch that everybody in town who's a nuclear buff will be throwing names in the pot."

An adviser to the U.S. negotiating team for the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, Carnesale, who teaches Social Sciences 159, "Technology, War and Peace", has been at the Kennedy School since 1974

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