Steven Chu announced Friday that he will relinquish his post as head of the Department of Energy.

Known for his prominent academic background and a focus on emerging technologies, his tenure saw the licensing of the first new reactors in decades at Plant Vogtle and V.C. Summer. He also supported loan guarantees for nuclear plants and for renewable projects, some of which failed and drew intense scrutiny from congressional Republicans. Likewise he directed the agency to spend a portion of the Obama administration's contentious fiscal stimulus toward waste cleanup at former Cold War sites.

While disagreeing strongly with the Obama administration's decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain geologic repository for spent fuel, the nuclear industry was supportive of his initiatives for new nuclear generation and research.

“The industry greatly appreciates Secretary Chu’s strong belief in the expansion of nuclear energy as a vital clean-energy technology for our nation. His leadership with regard to the construction of new nuclear energy facilities was important symbolically and substantively. This applies to the larger reactors that already are part of the backbone of our nation’s electricity grid, as well as innovative small reactor designs that offer great promise as a complementary technology," Nuclear Energy Institute CEO Marv Fertel said in a prepared statement.

A professor of physics and molecular biology, Chu served as the director of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory before his appointment at energy secretary.