Watchdog Says U.S. Nuclear Regulator Needs Image Polishing

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s senior management should focus on polishing the NRC’s public image and improving interpersonal skills, an employee survey conducted for the agency’s inspector general’s office found.

“The majority of participants feel immediate managers do not possess the people skills necessary to lead,” according to a report released today with the results of the 2012 survey on safety culture and climate at the NRC. Workers are also “concerned about the relationship of their top leaders with the NRC’s external image due to the recent events with the former chairman,” it said.

The NRC was thrust into the spotlight after a triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant in March 2011 forced regulators to review safety at U.S. reactors. A public rift between former Chairman Gregory Jaczko and the other four commissioners brought additional attention to the agency.

Jaczko, who oversaw the agency’s response to the Fukushima crisis, resigned last year after colleagues said he bullied employees and created a chilled work environment. Jaczko denied the accusations.

Focus Groups

Focus groups participating in the survey reported mixed results. The NRC’s reaction to the Fukushima incident was seen in a positive light “while the events with the former chairman” were seen negatively, according to the report.

Towers Watson & Co., a New York-based consultant, surveyed 3,755 NRC employees for the inspector general’s office. About 79 percent of those workers participated.

The report, which compared results with surveys conducted in previous years, said most workers found the agency’s strengths to be in training, staffing and setting objectives that employees understand. Still, it found need for improvement.

“While the 2012 NRC data continues to be more favorable than industry and national norms, the overall results are less favorable relative to the 2009 survey,” according to the report.

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