WSJ: December 11, 2011, 11:53 AM ET
Lawmakers Split Over NRC’s Jaczko
By Ryan Tracy
Lawmakers are splitting along party lines over whether to support U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko after colleagues questioned his leadership in a letter released Friday.
The other four members of the commission wrote a highly critical letter to the White House in October, saying Mr. Jaczko’s leadership style was affecting the agency’s ability to ensure nuclear safety and all but asking for President Barack Obama to remove Mr. Jaczko from the chairmanship. The letter was released Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), who is holding a hearing on Wednesday at which all five commissioners are expected to testify.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), who chairs the Senate committee that oversees the NRC, said in a statement that Mr. Jaczko’s response to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident had been “swift and effective.”
“We must move away from the ‘do nothing’ culture of the NRC and support Chairman Jaczko as he translates the lessons of Fukushima into an action plan that will make America’s nuclear plants the safest in the world,” Ms. Boxer said.
Congressional Republicans, by contrast, said the letter raises potentially serious concerns. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, said the allegations by Mr. Jaczko’z colleagues, if true, amounted to “a serious breach of the public’s trust.” She added that “such behavior is unacceptable at every level of government and a response from the president is long overdue.”
The conflict between Mr. Jaczko and his colleagues has been brewing for months, coloring the agency’s response to the Fukushima accident and the commission’s actions on other issues. In internal NRC e-mails cited in a Friday report from Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), Mr. Jaczko, his colleagues, and NRC staff wrangle over how the agency should respond to the crisis. The report shows that at times, the other commissioners felt Mr. Jaczko had taken control of the agency’s response and discussed how to exert more control over the process.
A White House spokesman had no comment on the letter Saturday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), for whom Mr. Jaczko once worked as a policy adviser, said in a statement that he continued to support the chairman.
“It is sad to see those who would place the interests of a single industry over the safety of the American people to wage a politically-motivated witch hunt against a man with a proven track record,” Mr. Reid said.