Allison M. Macfarlane
Areas of Expertise
Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1992
Thesis title: The relationship among metamorphism, deformation and plutonism in the Langtang region, central Nepal Himalaya. National Science Foundation Fellowship, 1988-1991.
B.Sc., University of Rochester, Summa Cum Laude, 1986
Highest Distinction in Geology.
Thesis title: A strontium and neodymium isotopic study of the volcanic rocks of Bermuda.
Dr. Allison M. Macfarlane is Professor and Director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs within the Faculty of Arts at UBC. Dr. Macfarlane has held both academic and government positions in the field of energy and environmental policy, especially nuclear policy. Most recently, she directed the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at the George Washington University. She recently held a fellowship at the Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC and was Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Applied Public Policy at Flinders University and Carnegie Mellon Adelaide in Australia.
The first geologist (and the third woman) to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2012-2014, Dr. Macfarlane holds a doctorate in earth science from MIT and a bachelor’s of science from the University of Rochester. She has held fellowships at Radcliffe College, MIT, Stanford, and Harvard Universities, and she has been on the faculty at Georgia Tech in Earth Science and International Affairs, at George Mason University in Environmental Science and Policy, and in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
From 2010 to 2012, Dr. Macfarlane served on the White House Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, created by the Obama Administration to recommend a new national policy on high-level nuclear waste. She has also served on National Academy of Sciences panels on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues, and she chaired the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the group that sets the Bulletin’s famous “doomsday clock.” In 2006, MIT Press published a book she co-edited, Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste. Dr. Macfarlane has published extensively in Science, Nature, Environmental Science and Technology, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and other journals.
Dr. Macfarlane’s research has focused on technical, social, and policy aspects of nuclear energy production and nuclear waste management and disposal as well as regulation, nuclear nonproliferation, and energy policy. As Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, she pushed for a more open dialogue with the public, for greater engagement with international nuclear regulators and, following the Fukushima accident, for stricter safety protocols at U.S. nuclear reactors. She also advocated for a more family-friendly workplace. She has spoken on a wide range of topics, from women and science to nuclear policy and regulatory politics.
Macfarlane, Allison (in preparation) A Nuclear Solution: Reflections of a Former Regulator on the Future of Nuclear Energy.
Macfarlane, Allison and Ewing, Rodney, editors, (2006) Uncertainty Underground: Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste, Policy and Scientific Issues, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Krall, Lindsay, McCartin, Tim, and Macfarlane, Allison, 2020, Siting deep boreholes for disposal of radioactive waste: Consequences for tight coupling between natural and engineered systems, Environmental Science and Technology, 54, no. 2, pp. 629-646.
Macfarlane, Allison (2019) The United States of America, in The World Nuclear Waste Report, Focus Europe 2019, Berlin & Brussels.
Krall, Lindsay and Macfarlane, Allison (2018) Burning Waste or Playing with Fire: Waste Management Considerations for Non-traditional Reactors, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 74, No. 5, 326-334.
Ewing, Rodney, Macfarlane, Allison, and others (2018) Reset of America’s Nuclear Waste Management: Strategy and Policy, Stanford University and George Washington University.
Macfarlane, Allison and Ewing, Rodney (2017) Déjà vu for US Nuclear Waste, Science, 356, #6345, p. 1313.
Macfarlane, Allison (2016) Radiation and Regulation in a Post-Fukushima World, Health Physics, 110, No. 2, 118-122.
Macfarlane, Allison (2013) Where, How, and Why Will Nuclear Happen: Nuclear “Renaissance” Discourses from Buyers and Suppliers, Chapter 2, Nuclear Energy and International Security, ed. Adam Stulberg and Matthew Furhmann, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Macfarlane, Allison (2012) Fukushima Lessons: The Disconnect between Geology and Nuclear Engineering, Elements, June, 2012, pp. 165-166.
Von Hippel, Frank, Ewing, Rodney, Garwin, Richard, and Macfarlane, Allison (2012) Time to bury plutonium, Nature, 485, pp. 167-168.
Macfarlane, Allison (2011) The Overlooked Back End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Science, 333, pp. 1225-1226.
Macfarlane, Allison (2011) It’s 2050: Do You Know Where Your Nuclear Waste Is?, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 67, no. 4, pp. 30-36.
Macfarlane, Allison (2010) Nuclear Power – A Panacea for Future Energy Needs?, Environment Magazine, 52, # 2, March/April, pp. 34-46.
Macfarlane, A (2020) Another victim of the pandemic: trust in government, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 13, 2020.
Macfarlane, A (2020) The Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site has always been a political football. Trump is the latest president to fumble, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 21, 2020.
Macfarlane, Allison (2019) “Incidental” nuclear waste: reconceiving a problem won’t make it go away, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 31, 2019.
Macfarlane, Allison (2016) Nuclear’s Glacial Pace, Technology Review, September/October.
Macfarlane, Allison and Kotek, John (2012) Social Acceptance and the Blue Ribbon Commission: A Positive Experience in National Nuclear Waste Discussions, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 14, 2012.
Fellowships and Honours
Wilson Center Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Washington, DC, 9/2019 – 5/2020.
Fulbright Distinguished Chair, Flinders University and Carnegie Mellon University, Adelaide, Australia, 1/2018-6/2018.
Member of the Board, American Institute of Physics, 9/2018 – present.
Alumni Achievement Award Winner, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Rochester, 2017.
Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 7/2012 – 12/2014.
Commissioner, U.S. Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Energy Future, 1/2010 – 1/2012.
Member of the Energy Board, The Keystone Center, 2008 – 2012, 2015 – present.
Chair of the Science and Security Board, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 2008 – 2012.