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Obama makes Nuclear Regulatory Commission nomination over Reid opposition

President Obama nominated Kristine L. Svinicki for a new term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday despite objections from the party's most powerful lawmaker, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Svinicki has been caught in a dispute over commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, a former Reid aide who has been accused of intimidation and bullying. Svinicki has served on the NRC since 2008. In December, she and other commission members told Congress that Jaczko had created a tense workplace and that women felt especially threatened.

Svinicki, a nuclear engineer and former Senate aide, is one of two Republicans and the only woman on the five-member commission. Jaczko, a Democrat, has called the accusations "categorically untrue."

The leader of the minority Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, urged Svinicki's prompt confirmation.

Democrat Reid has said previously that he opposed her nomination. His office would not comment Tuesday.

Republican lawmakers have been pressuring the White House to renominate Svincki and have expressed dismay that her job appeared in jeopardy rather than's Jaczko's.

McConnell called Svinicki "one of the world's leading experts on nuclear safety" and said she has served with distinction on the commission for four years.

Seven Republican senators who serve on the Senate Environment Committee wrote to Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, the panel's chairwoman, calling for quick action on Svinicki's nomination. Her current term expires June 30.

"I hope we can come to an agreement that assures urgent action on this matter, especially given that the White House has said we need an NRC that is `functioning effectively' and that the president doesn't want a `break in service," said Sen. James Inhofe, the panel's senior Republican.

Boxer's office could not be reached immediately for comment.

Inhofe and other Republicans said Jaczko, who served on the commission before being promoted by Obama to chairman, did not have a Senate hearing on his nomination as chairman in 2009.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobbying group, applauded Svinicki's nomination to a new term.

"As a nuclear engineer with exceptional technical knowledge and extensive experience as a policy adviser in the federal government, her qualifications are self-evident," NEI president Marvin Fertel said in a statement. "Beyond that, Commissioner Svinicki has served ably and consistently in fulfilling the NRC's mandate to ensure the safe operation of the nation's nuclear energy facilities."