WASHINGTON - Edward McGaffigan Jr., the longest serving member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, died yesterday after a lengthy battle with metastatic melanoma, a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer, the agency said.
Mr. McGaffigan, 58, died at the Capital Hospice in Arlington, Va.
A native of Boston and one of two Democrats on the commission, Mr. McGaffigan was appointed to the NRC, which regulates the nuclear industry, in 1996 and again in 2000 by President Clinton.
He was nominated for a third term by President Bush in 2005.
Mr. McGaffigan's death reduced the five-member commission to three members. One of the seats has been vacant since the departure of Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield earlier this year.
Not known for being reticent, Mr. McGaffigan often bluntly challenged his agency's critics, accusing some of fear-mongering in their criticism of the NRC's oversight of the nuclear power industry and industry safety.
Mr. McGaffigan, a Harvard graduate, said in January that he would retire because of his cancer but in late March changed his mind as chemotherapy appeared to slow the disease's progression.
In mid-July he led the NRC's response to reports that congressional investigators had set up a bogus company and obtained NRC permits to buy small amounts of nuclear material, telling a congressional hearing the failures exposed by the sting operation had been fixed.
Before joining the NRC, Mr. McGaffigan was legislative director for Senator Jeff Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat. Mr. McGaffigan worked on defense policy and nuclear nonproliferation issues for the senator.
Mr. McGaffigan grew up in Boston. His father, an Irish immigrant, helped build the first Boston Garden and later worked for Boston Gas, according to a speech Mr. McGaffigan made to the NRC earlier this year. His mother was a bookkeeper.
In addition to his undergraduate studies at Harvard, Mr. McGaffigan attended Boston Latin, the California Institute of Technology, and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Mr. McGaffigan leaves a son, Edward Francis, and daughter, Margaret Ruth, both of Arlington, Va.; his mother, a sister, and a brother.