Supporters and opponents of departing U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko used a fresh inspector general’s report on his management and use of authority to claim vindication.
Jaczko didn’t exceed his authority during Japan’s nuclear crisis, as suggested by opponents, though he did frequently intimidate staff who disagreed with him, the agency’s inspector general said in a report released yesterday.
Jaczko, 41, decided to leave a year before before his term ends amid criticism by lawmakers and colleagues for bullying employees, mistreating female staff and not being forthcoming with the other four commissioners. His colleagues in October wrote to White House Chief of Staff William Daley saying Jaczko bullied staff and tried to intimidate the independent panel.
The report “verifies the concerns brought forward by Chairman Jaczko’s colleagues last year -- it is vindication for their efforts,” Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who requested the report, said in a statement yesterday. “As it confirms, Mr. Jaczko was undermining the agency and its mission of safety -- and he was doing this at one of the NRC’s most critical junctures: in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident.”
Senior executives and commissioners described instances where “bullying tactics” caused them to side with Jaczko over their own judgments, the inspector general said in the report.
The watchdog’s report also focused on four accusations related to Jaczko’s management, including his use of emergency powers after a 2011 tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plants and determined he didn’t exceed his authority.
“This report is a welcome vindication of Chairman Jaczko and his leadership of the commission during the worst nuclear disaster in history,” Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who previously hired Jaczko as an adviser, said yesterday. “Greg Jaczko has been the victim of a sustained and mean-spirited whispering campaign by hostile NRC Commissioners who resented a strong Chairman with a real commitment to nuclear safety who wanted to turn the NRC into a real watchdog.”
President Barack Obama nominated Allison Macfarlane, a geologist and expert on atomic waste, to replace Jaczko. Both Democrats and Republicans endorse her swift confirmation and the Senate may vote on her nomination this week.
“Damage has been done that will take some time to repair,” Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee led by Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan said in a statement yesterday. “Time will tell whether the next chair will work collegiality to restore the NRC’s credibility as an independent, objective protector of public health and safety.”
Jaczko issued an e-mail statement before the report was available, citing awards received by the agency for workplace diversity and for being rated among the best places to work in the federal government.
“I have felt confident all along that my actions have been consistent with my responsibilities and authorities as chairman, and certainly that there was no wrongdoing,” Jaczko said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “The report raises nothing new of substance.”
A June 6, 2011, report by the inspector general found Jaczko “was not forthcoming” with colleagues about his intent to close the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste site project in Nevada.
Macfarlane, 48, had spoken against Yucca Mountain in her past academic work.