WASHINGTON – NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko on Friday denied accusations he abuses women in the workplace, a charge that has resurfaced in the latest fight in Congress over the nuclear safety agency.
“There has been a little bit of talk recently about my treatment of women. Any of these accusations that I specifically target women are categorically untrue,” Jaczko said at the outset of a news conference. “I categorically deny accusations that I mistreat women at the agency.”
Jaczko moved to dampen an issue that was resurrected this week when Republicans spoke out on delays by President Barack Obama to renominate nuclear engineer Kristine Svinicki, 45, to a fresh five-year term on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
She is one of two Republicans on the five-member panel. Her current term expires June 30.
A day after Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky began talking about Svinicki, White House officials said Thursday the administration would renominate her.
Republicans said Svinicki, 45, was being held up because she and three other commissioners complained to the White House last fall that Jaczko managed by “bullying and intimidation,” and it was hurting the effectiveness of the agency, which enforces critical nuclear safety rules.
Emphasizing Svinicki’s status as the only female commissioner, Republicans pointed to testimony from a House hearing last December that she and other women felt particularly threatened by Jaczko.
GOP allies picked up on the theme that Democrats were “waging war” on Svinicki to blunt Democrat messaging that Republicans are “waging war” on women through their health and social policies.
At the news conference, Jaczko sidestepped multiple questions about his relationship with Svinicki and whether he wants her to return to the NRC.
He also declined to say whether he agreed with charges by former boss Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that Svinicki is soft on safety and that she “lied” about the level of her involvement in the Yucca Mountain Project earlier in her career.
Jaczko was Reid’s chief adviser against the Nevada nuclear waste site before being placed on the NRC in 2005.
Asked whether he has discussed Svinicki’s nomination with Reid or his staff, Jaczko said “not recently.” He didn’t elaborate.
Jaczko also said he was not privy to the status of an investigation being conducted by the NRC inspector general about his management that was sparked last fall by reports of the troubled relationships at the top of the agency.