WASHINGTON — Four Republican senators are asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspector general to investigate the agency’s chairman for what they say is a continued pattern of withholding information from colleagues and acting unilaterally on the commission’s behalf.
Lawmakers from both parties have criticized NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, asserting that he has an overly secretive and controlling style.
The GOP lawmakers say the latest example stems from Jaczko’s declaration in March that Japan’s nuclear crisis constituted an emergency in the United States.
GOP Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana said it is not clear that Jaczko had authority to make such a declaration, which grants him additional powers, because the crisis occurred on foreign soil.
The senators also said they were not certain that Jaczko has rescinded the order despite his public claims to the contrary.
Jaczko previously was investigated by the inspector general after complaints that he overstepped his authority in taking steps to end NRC licensing work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
In a June 6 report after an eight-month probe, the inspector general, Hubert Bell, said Jaczko did not break any laws but was not forthcoming in dealing with his fellow commissioners on the Nevada issue.
Testifying before a House committee a few days later, Bell called Jaczko’s actions wrong and “not an upfront way to do business.”
The Republican senators picked up on that matter in a letter to Bell on Thursday.
“We are concerned that this pattern of wrong behavior has not only continued but expanded beyond the Yucca issue to the Fukushima review process,” the lawmakers said, naming the Japanese nuclear plant.
They said Jaczko repeatedly has thwarted the five-member commission’s ability to make decisions in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility.
An agency spokesman said Thursday that Jaczko acted within his authority, citing congressional testimony by the commission’s top lawyer.
Steve Burns, the NRC’s general counsel, told a Senate committee Aug. 2 that Jaczko’s actions “were consistent with the powers that he has under the statute.”
While there was no specific event at a U.S. nuclear plant, the Japanese crisis presented an overall “threat environment” to U.S. sites, Burns told the Senate Environment Committee.
Jaczko, testifying at the same hearing, said he informally had rescinded the order, adding that no formal report was necessary because he had kept commissioners informed of his actions all along.
Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.