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Sessions Responds To NRC Personnel Changes

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama issued a written statement Thursday in response to personnel changes on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  President Obama nominated Dr. Allison Macfarlane to serve out the remainder of Dr. Gregory Jaczko’s term as Chairman.  Sen. Sessions is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. Sessions said, “My concerns with Dr. Jaczko’s tenure as chairman went well beyond his abusive behavior toward the other commissioners and NRC staff. I believe Dr. Jaczko wielded his authority in an attempt to thwart the use of nuclear energy in the United States. Going forward, America needs—both for our economy and our environment—an NRC chairman who values the role of nuclear power and who will faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of this important position in strict adherence to the laws of this nation. The President gets to decide the person he wants to serve out the remainder of Dr. Jaczko’s term, and as Dr. Macfarlane has not been vetted previously by the Senate, I look forward to learning more about her record and views.”

Sen. Sessions continued, “Notwithstanding the developments this week concerning the next chairman of the NRC, I believe there is no reason why the Senate should not move immediately to confirm Commissioner Kristine Svinicki to a new term before her current term expires at the end of June. The President announced his decision to re-nominate Commissioner Svinicki over a month ago. She was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2008 and she has served one full term on the NRC with honor and distinction. The nation needs Ms. Svinicki to continue her service on the Commission, and I would strongly urge my colleagues in the Senate to re-confirm her to a new term.”

Dr. Gregory Jaczko resigned on May 21.  He was unpopular with the other four NRC commissioners, subordinates in the agency, and the utilities which NRC regulates.  Dr. Jaczko had said that he would stay on until his successor was confirmed; but President Obama apparently felt it would help to have new leadership at the agency.  The commission’s inspector general is preparing a report to be issued this month that is expected to contain charges of mismanagement and verbal abuse of subordinates. The other four members of the commission (2 Republicans and 2 Democrats) had sent a letter to the President making similar allegations about Jaczko and his leadership style last year.  In their letter they allege that Dr. Jaczko had withheld information from them and had been verbally abusive to female staffers.

Dr. Jaczko, had been chairman of the NRC since May 2009 and was the longest-serving member of the five-member commission.  As chairman he helped to end the government’s consideration of a proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in the Nevada desert.  The controversial decision has long been a goal of Senator Harry Reid who recommended Dr. Jaczko for the position in 2005.  Prior to joining the NRC he was a member of Sen. Reid’s staff.  He had a background in nuclear physics and nuclear policy; but had never actually worked in the industry.

Dr. Jaczko told the press, “I thought it was really the right time to make that announcement, to give the president an opportunity to take whatever time may be needed to identify and work through the process of selecting a successor.”

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Dr. Elizabeth MacFarlane is a nuclear waste expert from George Mason University.

Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.