Reid Attack on Magwood Seen as Signal in Jockeying for NRC Chief

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may have signaled an effort to bar Nuclear Regulatory Commission member William Magwood from being chairman by excoriating him over an atomic-waste site, a safety advocate said.

“Bill Magwood is one of the most unethical, prevaricating, incompetent people I’ve dealt with,” Reid said in a July 26 interview with the Huffington Post, posted today and confirmed by the senator’s office. “I will never forget what a treacherous, miserable liar he is.”

Magwood was among candidates mentioned as a successor to Gregory Jaczko, who quit as NRC chairman in May, David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said today in a phone interview. President Barack Obama picked geologist Allison Macfarlane to fill the remainder of Jaczko’s term, which expires in June 2013.

“The biggest consequence will be in June next year,” Lochbaum said in discussing Reid’s comments about Magwood. “It sounds like it’s some early posturing.”

Jaczko, a former science adviser to Reid, resigned amid allegations from Magwood and other colleagues that he bullied staff and humiliated female employees. Magwood also told lawmakers in December that Jaczko verbally abused female workers, a claim the ex-chairman denied.

Magwood didn’t return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment on Reid’s criticism. NRC spokesman Eliot Brenner declined to comment.

‘Worry About’

Reid blamed Magwood for Jaczko’s departure. He said Magwood, appointed by Obama in 2010, lied to him about his position on Yucca Mountain, a proposed Nevada nuclear-waste site Reid opposes. Magwood tried to continue work on Yucca even as he assured Reid, “You don’t have to worry about me” on the project, the senator told the Huffington Post.

“He’s a first-class rat,” Reid told the publication. “He lied to me, and he had a plan. He is a tool of the nuclear industry.”

Magwood, whose NRC term ends in June 2015, for seven years was the Energy Department’s director of nuclear energy, making him the government’s senior nuclear-technology official. Before joining the department, he was manager of electric utility research and nuclear policy at the industry-backed Edison Electric Institute, according to his agency biography.

“And as long as I have this job, he will never be chairman of anything that takes Senate confirmation,” Reid, whose senate term ends after 2016, told the website.

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