WASHINGTON — Embattled NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said Wednesday that he has “no intention” of resigning even as four fellow commission members — two Democrats and two Republicans — expressed grave concerns about his leadership.
Jaczko offered no apologies for his management style and denied all charges of bullying or intimidating staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during 2½ hours of testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“I have no plans to resign because I continue to believe under my leadership the agency has performed very well,” Jaczko said. “We have committed ourselves to safety, and I believe my record shows that.”
Jaczko sat at a table among the four NRC commissioners who had sent a letter to the White House in October that accused Jaczko of intimidating and using abusive behavior toward agency staff.
In testimony given under oath, George Apostolakis, William Magwood, Kristine Svinicki and William Ostendorff said they have serious doubts about their chairman’s leadership and reaffirmed their accusations of bullying and intimidation.
They also pushed back against claims by Jaczko supporters that their concerns are politically motivated.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., defended Jaczko as a “brilliant man” who is committed to nuclear safety while other commissioners appear to be more concerned with protecting the nuclear industry.
Jaczko worked for Reid before joining the NRC, and Reid’s strong support for Jaczko is considered crucial in his keeping his job.
Reid is the leading congressional opponent of a planned nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Jaczko has made a series of decisions over the past two years that have aided the Obama administration’s goal of shutting down Yucca Mountain.
Ostendorff took offense at the accusation that he or other commissioners are doing the bidding of the nuclear industry.
“I regret that our letter is being portrayed as politically motivated,” he said. “It is not about Yucca Mountain.”
Magwood told reporters after the hearing that Yucca Mountain had been an issue of “big debate” a year ago but had nothing to do with the concerns being raised now about Jaczko’s leadership.
“It didn’t even come up,” Magwood said. “There was a big debate last year, but after that was done, we moved on.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the committee, stopped short of calling for Jaczko to resign but made it clear that he needed to change his style. The committee, he said, would continue its oversight and would not tolerate any harassment or retaliation against those raising questions.
Jaczko remained dispassionate throughout the hearing even as some Republican committee members loudly questioned his unwillingness to accept blame.
Rep. Eliajah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, dismissed calls for Jaczko to resign but suggested that he and the commission work together to put aside internal squabbles and focus on the mission of nuclear safety.
“I don’t want you to quit,” Cummings said. “We’ve got to do better than this. There is no reason why this has risen to this level. … I beg you to work this thing out. Sit down like reasonable people and work this out.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.