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Cancer Claims Nuclear Commissioner McGaffigan

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We have to tell you this morning that a leading voice in American nuclear policy has died. Edward McGaffigan, Jr. was the longest-serving member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He was appointed by President Clinton in the 1990s, and then reappointed and he continued under President Bush. McGaffigan was an advocate of nuclear power. He said the hazards were sometimes overstated. And he continued serving in his job even after learning that he suffered from an especially dangerous form of skin cancer.

Mr. EDWARD McGAFFIGAN (Former Commissioner, Nuclear Regulatory Commission): I think if I just stayed at home waiting to die, it wouldn't be a very good way to go. I'm functional at the moment. I could die at any moment due to brain hemorrhage, but barring that, I should be able to decline for several months and be functional for several months.

INSKEEP: That's Edward McGaffigan, speaking earlier this year to NPR's David Kestenbaum. Now early in the year, McGaffigan actually announced his intention to resign, but he changed his mind after learning of his condition. He went on to speak out against a key nuclear initiative. McGaffigan told NPR that because of unrelenting local opposition, the government should scrap its plan to store the country's nuclear waste at a site in Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Mr. McGAFFIGAN: We so ruined politics with the state of Nevada that we've never recovered. And we may - we're unlikely to recover. You cannot impose things on sovereign states.

INSKEEP: Strong words from Edward McGaffigan, who continued working late into this summer before dying of cancer. Asked why he chose to spend his final days at the office, Edward McGaffigan said there's a job to be done here. And I'm good at it, even when I'm tired. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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