A Nuclear Meltdown | December 19, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 51 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 51 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: December 19, 2011

A Nuclear Meltdown

Government: Sparks fly among NRC commissioners
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko
Jaczko is under fire from fellow NRC commissioners and some members of Congress.
Credit: Joshua Roberts/RTR/Newscom
Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in this file photo taken on March 16, 2011. The U.S. nuclear industry's top cop will weigh major changes in how it regulates the country's 104 reactors after Japan's Fukushima disaster, a move that will help shape the future of the power source and could lead to significant cost increases. A task force report published on Wednesday recommended the Nuclear Regulatory Commission look at a fundamental shift in how it plans for catastrophes.
Jaczko is under fire from fellow NRC commissioners and some members of Congress.
Credit: Joshua Roberts/RTR/Newscom

Commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have accused Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko of bullying and abusive behavior. The deep divisions among NRC’s four commissioners and its chairman were on display last week when all five appeared before committees of the House of Representatives and of the Senate.

In testimony on Dec. 14 before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, the four commissioners accused Jaczko of “intimidating and bullying staff,” inappropriate temper outbursts, and “intemperate and disrespectful behavior” toward fellow commissioners. They first made the allegations in a highly unusual October letter to the White House chief of staff. At the hearing, NRC Commissioner William D. Magwood IV further charged Jaczko of abusive behavior toward staff, particularly women. Magwood is former head of the Department of Energy’s nuclear programs.

Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) called the hearing after releasing the exchanges between the commissioners and the White House, as well a highly critical oversight committee report on the NRC chairman. Several Republicans on the committee called for Jaczko’s resignation, but the NRC chairman said he would not leave, adding that it was the first time he had heard most of the allegations.

Jaczko has led NRC since 2009 and has been a commissioner since 2005. Formerly, he was an aide to Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), both critics of the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste repository and nuclear energy in general.

Jaczko has clashed with some commissioners in the past on policy issues, and he angered congressional Republicans when he ended NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain waste repository in compliance with President Barack Obama’s request that the project be canceled.

The day after the House committee hearing, Jaczko testified before the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, where Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-­Calif.) and other Democrats strongly defended him. Boxer criticized the four commissioners for slowing down the regulatory process in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster and caving in to the nuclear industry. In turn, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other Republicans attacked Jaczko for “fundamentally undermining” the comission and pushing his own agenda.

The White House has dismissed the NRC commissioners’ charges against Jaczko as “organizational tensions.”

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