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Senate confirms physicist as energy chief

Energy Secretary nominee and MIT professor Ernest Moniz.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Energy Secretary nominee and MIT professor Ernest Moniz.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has unanimously confirmed President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Energy Department.

Physicist Ernest Moniz is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Moniz replaces Steven Chu, who served as energy secretary in Obama’s first term.

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Moniz was an energy undersecretary in the Clinton administration.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had delayed a vote on Moniz for several weeks. Graham was protesting Obama’s plan to cut about $200 million from a South Carolina project to turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for nuclear reactors.

Graham and other GOP lawmakers said the plan jeopardized a plant being built at the Savannah River nuclear site.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. He calls Moniz smart, savvy and solution-oriented.

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