Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chief Resigns

By Ed O'Keefe | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 22, 2012 | Go to article overview

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chief Resigns


Ed O'Keefe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


WASHINGTON -- The nation's chief of nuclear safety announced his resignation Monday after a three-year tenure marked by debates over regulatory guidelines, praise for the U.S. response to the Japanese nuclear disaster and complaints that he had verbally abused women in the workplace.

The departure of Gregory Jaczko, an advocate of tough safety standards at nuclear reactor sites during eight years on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, caps almost a year of concerns about his leadership of the NRC, which he has chaired since 2009.

Although Mr. Jaczko has frequently been at odds with fellow NRC commissioners over the extent of safety requirements, it was political timing and management style that ultimately prompted his departure.

The NRC's inspector general has briefed congressional aides on the contents of a report, due out in less than a month, about allegations that Mr. Jaczko treated female staffers harshly, according to people familiar with the briefing who spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve their business relationships. A draft of the report quoted female staffers saying his comments made them cry.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Jaczko said the inspector general's report "had absolutely no role" in his decision, and that "any allegations about me targeting women are simply untrue." He said that with his term expiring in June of next year, he "wanted to give the president and Senate the opportunity to go through the process of identifying a candidate. Sometimes these decisions are a gut feeling."

But in an election year, congressional aides said Mr. Jaczko was facing wavering support from his former boss, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who fiercely opposes efforts to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, a key concern of the nuclear agency. In a statement Monday, Mr. Reid thanked Mr. Jaczko for his service, noting his leadership of the agency in the aftermath of last year's Japanese tsunami and partial meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Mr. Jaczko is a former staffer for Mr. Reid and other Democratic lawmakers.

The White House can now nominate a replacement who could be paired with Kristine Svinicki, a Republican NRC commissioner who requires confirmation for a new five-year term. An industry source, who asked for anonymity to preserve relationships in Congress, said that to replace Mr. …

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