NRC Commissioner Burns Announces Departure

On January 28, 2019, Commissioner Stephen Burns told U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff earlier that he will leave the Commission when his term expires on June 30, 2019.

Burns announcement came during the annual NRC all-employee meeting.


The NRC Commission operates as a collegial body to formulate policies, develop regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, issue orders to licensees and adjudicate legal matters.

The five NRC Commissioners are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for five-year terms to head the agency.  One of them is designated by the President to be the Chair and official spokesperson of the Commission.

The Chair is the Principal Executive Officer of and the Official Spokesperson for the NRC.  As Principal Executive Officer, the Chair is responsible for conducting the administrative, organizational, long-range planning, budgetary and certain personnel functions of the agency.  The Chair has ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC license.  The Chair’s actions are governed by the general policies of the Commission.

All five NRC Commissioner slots are currently filled.  In addition to Burns, the remaining other Commissioners include:

  • Kristine Svinicki, a nuclear engineer and policy advisor, is currently the NRC Chair. She is serving her third term on the Commission, which is set to expire on June 30, 2022.
  • Jeff Baran, an attorney and member of the Commission since 2014 who’s current term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2017.
  • Annie Caputo, a nuclear policy adviser to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), is serving a term that is set to expire on June 30, 2021.
  • David Wright, an energy consultant and former president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, who’s term is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2020.

The agency can have no more than three Commissioners who are members of the same party.  Burns departure will leave three Republican Commissioners and one Democrat.


Burns, an Independent, became an NRC Commissioner in November 2014.  He served as the agency’s Chair from January 2015 to January 2017, when President Trump replaced him with current Chair Kristine Svinicki, who is a Republican.

Burns joined NRC in 1978 as an attorney.  He worked his way up to the post of General Counsel, which he held from 2009 to 2012.

At that time, Burns joined the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris as the Head of Legal Affairs before returning to become an NRC commissioner about two years later.

The week before announcing his departure, Burns dissented from a majority vote by Commissioners to change the agency’s safety requirements established in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan in 2011.

For additional information related to Commission business, please contact Annette Vietti-Cook, Secretary of the Commission, at (301) 415-1969 or at