(Updates with comment from Reid spokesman in 10th paragraph.)
Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko is causing “serious damage” to the agency and is “creating a chilled work environment,” his four commission colleagues said.
Jaczko has bullied career staff and attempted to intimidate an independent panel of technical advisers, the other NRC commissioners said in an Oct. 13 letter to White House Chief of Staff William Daley, released yesterday by Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“In a long series of very troubling actions taken by Chairman Jaczko, he has undermined the ability of the commission to function,” Commissioners George Apostolakis, William Magwood IV, William Ostendorff and Kristine Svinicki said in the letter that described their “grave concerns.”
Jaczko responded that the commission’s majority has “loosened the agency’s safety standards” over his opposition. The exchanges bring into the open tensions and conflict within the agency that is responsible for regulating the 104 commercial reactors in the U.S. and is considering applications for a new generation of power plants.
The NRC commissioners are scheduled to testify before the committee, led by California Republican Darrell Issa, about the rifts on Dec. 14.
“There is no chilled work environment around me,” Jaczko said in a Dec. 7 letter to Daley. “I have never attempted to intimidate” the technical advisory panel, and “I do not ignore the will of the commission on policy matters,” he said.
“Unfortunately, all too often, when faced with tough policy calls,” the commission majority “established policies that have loosened the agency’s safety standards,” he said.
Jaczko wasn’t open with colleagues about his intent to stop work on a proposed waste site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, according to a June report from the NRC’s inspector general.
Republicans have accused Jaczko of stopping work on the Yucca project for political reasons, which he has denied. President Barack Obama has moved to halt the project. Jaczko is a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who led opposition to the Yucca site.
Jaczko’s opponents are waging a “politically motivated witch hunt against a man with a proven track record of ensuring that nuclear power is produced as safely and responsibly as possible,” Adam Jentleson, a Reid spokesman, said in an e- mailed statement.
A report released yesterday by Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts blamed the four commissioners for trying to impede Jaczko’s response to Japan’s nuclear crisis in March.
They “conspired, with each other and with senior NRC staff, to delay the release of and alter” an agency task-force study on the crisis, according to the 22-page report. It is based on documents submitted by the commissioners in response to an October request from Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Jaczko, a former congressional science fellow for Markey, has urged the NRC to move quickly in implementing the task- force’s recommendations to improve safety at U.S. reactors after an earthquake and tsunami caused radiation leaks and meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
Markey’s report found e-mails and other documents with “high levels of suspicion and hostility directed” at Jaczko. At other times, e-mails showed Jaczko’s colleagues “assumed ill intent on the part of the chairman” and tried to “undermine his efforts or refuse his requests.”
--Editors: Joe Winski, Larry Liebert
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