The departing chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes that a report from the NRC Office of Inspector General shows there was “no wrongdoing” on his part during his stewardship of the agency.
Meanwhile, several of the recently-resigned chairman’s GOP congressional critics said the report vindicates their view that Jaczko has been a backroom bully who failed to get along with NRC senior staff and his fellow commissioners.
The report itself had not yet been released to the general public as of early June 27. A summary of the report obtained by GenerationHub shows something of a mixed bag. It found no “wrongdoing” on the chairman’s part, but did note that Jaczko tried to wield his chairman’s authority more broadly than at least a couple of former chairmen interviewed by the IG’s office.
“I have felt confident all along that my actions have been consistent with my responsibilities and authorities as Chairman, and certainly that there was no wrongdoing,” Jaczko said in a June 26 news release. “This report underscores my belief. I appreciate the Inspector General’s independent investigation and am glad to put this behind us.”
He added: “The report raises nothing new of substance." He also noted that during his tenure, NRC has been cited as one of the best places to work in the federal government.
The report, however, is far from an endorsement of Jaczko’s management style, said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Inhofe requested the IG report in 2011.
In a statement, Inhofe also praised the four other commissioners on the panel who criticized Jaczko during congressional testimony last year.
"The NRC IG report released [to Congress] today verifies the concerns brought forward by Chairman Jaczko's colleagues last year - it is vindication for their efforts,” Inhofe said. “It took a great deal of courage for the four Commissioners to come together in a bipartisan effort, putting the NRC's mission of safety above all else, as Mr. Jaczko's abuse of his power was preventing them from doing their jobs."
Report offers mixed bag for Jaczko
The OIG report summary obtained by GenerationHub said the IG identified more than 15 examples of interactions between the chairman and NRC senior executives “where the chairman’s behavior was not supportive of an open and collaborative work environment.”
“Although no one interviewed said they would hesitate to bring a safety matter to the Chairman’s attention, NRC senior executives and Commissioners provided specific examples of what they perceived as intimidating and bullying tactics by Chairman Jaczko so that they would be influenced to side with the Chairman’s opinion despite their own judgments,” the document said.
“The Chairman says he welcomes disagreement and challenges the staff for the good of the agency,” the OIG said.
Jaczko resigned in May, pending approval of his successor, and his successor, Allison Macfarlane, a geologist and academic who served on the Blue Ribbon Commission for America’s Nuclear Future, is expected to soon be confirmed by the Senate. Likewise, current commissioner Kristine Svinicki is also expected to be appointed to a new term.
While he has headed NRC, Jaczko has both taken policy positions at odds with industry – such as ending license proceedings for the Yucca Mountain waste repository and casting the lone vote against the first new U.S. nuclear plants to be licensed by NRC in more than 30 years – and been called a backroom bully.
The Office of Inspector General for the NRC looked into a variety of allegations concerning Jaczko’s interaction with NRC officials following the March 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdown disaster in Japan as well as the chairman’s statements during congressional hearings in December 2011.
The OIG found that Jaczko did not exceed his authority while leading NRC’s response to Fukushima from March 11 to May 16, 2011. It was unclear, however, if the chairman was using his “Section 3” emergency authority during this time, the report said. The OIG report also said that Jaczko made “reasonable efforts” to keep the other four members of the commission informed during the period.
In addition, the OIG found that Jaczko’s actions seeking withdrawal and resubmission of a revised NRC staff task force report on Fukushima did not violate NRC’s internal commission procedures. The OIG did say that other commissioners said they typically like to read NRC senior staff comments in such reports.