Jaczko Jacked up: Nuclear Energy Mugs Regulatory Commish

Gregory Jaczko at congressional hearing.

Gregory Jaczko at congressional hearing.

At Huffington Post, Ryan Grim has written a dramatic account of how the nuclear-energy industry in the United States tried to take down the commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It seems its main beef with him was that he seeks to shut down planning for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. Grim reports:

A feud at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where five presidentially appointed commissioners oversee the safety of the nation’s nuclear power reactors, has broken out into full public view, with Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s fellow commissioners assailing his character and management style, both in a letter made public earlier this month and in the resulting testimony before Congress. Republicans have begun calling for Jaczko’s ouster.

What would make Jaczko’s fellow commissioners turn on him?

The current fight against NRC Chairman Jaczko began with anonymous accusations that he was improperly asserting his authority to follow an administrative dictate. … The issue that most frequently provoked the commissioners under Jaczko, said [David] Lochbaum, who worked briefly for the NRC himself in 2009 and 2010, had to do with the somewhat blurry line between what are considered day-to-day operations — the purview of the chairman — and matters of policy — which are supposed to be the province of the full commission. Who had what power was the animating criticism of Jaczko’s decisions to [make it a priority] to study and upgrade safety at U.S. nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster and to close out the … review of the Yucca Mountain facility. The commissioners charged that Jaczko failed to consult them fully.

Also, a lobbyist and a nuclear-energy industry consultant began seeding opinion against him with allegations that he generated a “chilled work environment” and allegations he bullied women. Grim reveals that there was no truth to the latter two, but Jaczko was forced to undergo a humiliating congressional hearing that came to naught. The Obama administration even continued to support him.

In the end, the attak on Gregory Jaczko serves as a case study of what can happen when regulatory agencies are infected by corporate interests.

“This is the ugly underbelly of large corporate lobbying,” said the former staffer, who has worked with the men at the center of both controversies and is now a corporate lobbyist himself. “It really is by any means necessary.”