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Research Integrity

Politics At Play In Nuclear Waste Review

by Glenn Hess
June 20, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 25

The inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told Congress last week that the agency’s chairman made unilateral decisions and repeatedly misled fellow commissioners about his plans to terminate the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. Inspector General Hubert T. Bell told the House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee that NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko “strategically” withheld information from the four other commissioners about a key scientific review of the repository project. Jaczko’s actions allowed him to shut down the review last year without a vote by the full commission. Bell said Jaczko acted unprofessionally but not illegally. Several Republican lawmakers disagreed, saying Jaczko appears to have violated a federal law that requires the NRC chairman to keep fellow commissioners “fully and currently informed” about important matters before the commission. Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.) said Bell’s report “reveals a calculating and political NRC chairman who has abused his authority, who sought to suppress scientific reports and withhold information from fellow commissioners.” Jaczko worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before joining NRC in 2005. Reid strongly opposes the Yucca Mountain project.


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