Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Commissioner
The biographies for all of the former Commissioners in this section are the official ones they used during their Commission terms.
The Honorable Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), is a theoretical physicist. Dr. Jackson was nominated to the Commission and designated to become Chairman by President Bill Clinton. After confirmation by the U.S. Senate, she was sworn in as a Commissioner on May 2, 1995, and assumed the Chairmanship two months later, on July 1, 1995. Prior to joining the NRC, Dr. Jackson was a university professor, research scientist, consultant and corporate director.
The Chairman is the principal executive officer of and the official spokesman for the NRC, as mandated by the Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1980. As principal executive officer, the Chairman is responsible for conducting the administrative, organizational, long-range planning, budgetary, and certain personnel functions of the agency. She has ultimate authority for all NRC functions pertaining to an emergency involving an NRC licensee. Her actions are governed by the general policies of the Commission.
The Commission is responsible for licensing and regulating nuclear facilities and materials, and for conducting research in support of the licensing and regulatory process, as mandated by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, as amended, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978; and in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended, and other applicable statutes. These responsibilities include protection of public health and safety; protecting the environment; protecting and safeguarding materials and nuclear facilities in the interest of national security; and assuring conformity with antitrust laws. Agency functions are performed through standards-setting and rulemaking; technical reviews and studies; conduct of public hearings; issuance of authorizations, permits, and licenses; inspection, investigation, and enforcement; evaluation of operating experience; and confirmatory research. The Commission is composed of five members, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, one of whom is designated by the President as Chairman.
Dr. Jackson graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1964, as class valedictorian. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1968 and a Ph.D. in the field of theoretical elementary particle physics in 1973, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
For 15 years, from 1976 until 1991, Dr. Jackson conducted research in theoretical physics, solid state and quantum physics, and optical physics at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.
From 1991 to 1995, Dr. Jackson was Professor of Physics at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., serving concurrently as a consultant in semiconductor theory to AT&T Bell Laboratories.
Dr. Jackson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and is a member of a number of other professional organizations. Dr. Jackson holds five honorary doctoral degrees from: Bloomfield College (NJ): 1991, Fairleigh Dickinson University (NJ): 1993, Cheyney University (PA): 1996, Villanova University (PA): 1996, and St. Peter's College (NJ): 1997. In 1993 she was awarded the New Jersey Governor's Award in Science (New Jersey's highest award to a State citizen).
She has served on the boards of directors of Public Service Enterprise Group and its subsidiary, Public Service Electric and Gas Company, Sealed Air Corporation, CoreStates Financial Corporation, CoreStates New Jersey National Bank, and New Jersey Resources Corporation.
She is a Life Member of the M.I.T. Board of Trustees (the M.I.T. Corporation). She has served on the Secretary of Energy's Task Force on the future of Department of Energy National Laboratories, on research councils of the National Academy of Sciences, and on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO). She has been a member of the Commission on the Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Applications of the National Research Council. Dr. Jackson has also served on a number of high level commissions in the State of New Jersey, including the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology (1989-1995), and the Governor's Economic Master Plan Commission (1994).
Dr. Jackson has achieved a number of firsts in her career. She is the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from M.I.T.--in any subject. She is the first African-American to become a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She is both the first woman and the first African-American to serve as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
With the May 1997 formation of the International Nuclear Regulator's Association, Dr. Jackson was elected as the group's first Chairman. The Association is made up of the most senior nuclear regulatory officials from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Dr. Jackson was inducted into The National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 for her significant and profound contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy. Her achievements are of enduring value to the progress and freedom of women in this country.
On July 1, 1999, Dr. Jackson became the 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.