Bloomberg News

NRC’s Jaczko Backed by U.S. Senate Democrats in Leadership Feud

December 16, 2011

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senate Democrats defended Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko in a feud with his colleagues and criticized other commissioners for delaying the agency’s response to Japan’s nuclear disaster.

Critics of Jaczko’s leadership are trying to “assassinate the character of a dedicated public servant,” Senator Barbara Boxer said today at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in Washington.

Jaczko, 41, and his colleagues returned to Congress a day after a House committee examined accusations by the four other commissioners that the chairman bullied agency employees, humiliated female workers and blocked information from being shared. The chairman denied the complaints, saying many actions have been “misconstrued.”

The NRC, which regulates 104 U.S. commercial reactors, is considering rules to improve nuclear plant safety after an earthquake and tsunami caused radiation leaks and meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi facility.

It’s “inexcusable,” that the NRC hasn’t moved quickly to implement rules following the disaster, Boxer, a California Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said at a hearing on the agency’s post-Fukushima safety review.

Jaczko, elevated to chairman by President Barack Obama, said today he accepted a “share of responsibility” for the rift with the four other commissioners. He told the Senate panel that he is committed to working with his colleagues.

‘Deeply Offensive’

Commissioner George Apostolakis said the commissioners didn’t conspire to weaken the agency’s actions since the Fukushima crisis by delaying a task-force’s recommendations.

“I find it deeply offensive that ill motives are ascribed to us,” Apostolakis said.

The NRC may soon award Southern Co. of Atlanta and Scana Corp. of Cayce, South Carolina, the first permits to build U.S. reactors in more than 30 years. A majority of the commission has voted to back the AP1000 design from Toshiba Corp.’s Westinghouse Electric unit, which Southern and Scana plan to build at existing plants.

The NRC hasn’t held a final vote to affirm the AP1000, a necessary step before the companies can obtain construction and operating licenses for the new reactors.

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Wingfield in Washington at bwingfield3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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