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January 25, 2015

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nuclear energy:

NRC chief Jaczko to hear complaints from colleagues

Meet the commissioners behind the allegations at the heart of today’s hearing


Karoun Demirjian

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko answers a battery of questions pertaining to Yucca Mountain from members of the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment May 4, 2011.

Beginning today, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko will be on the hot seat, attempting to preserve his reputation — and his job — against complaints from the four other commissioners that his conduct is destroying the panel’s ability to function. As a group, the four face countercharges that their crusade isn’t motivated by Jaczko’s conduct, which they say amounts to bullying, but by cozy relationships with the nuclear industry.

Jaczko is an ardent opponent of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and has pressed for stricter regulation of the industry in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hear from the commissioners today. Here is some background on these commissioners, who during their five-year terms, decide how the country regulates nuclear energy.

Commissioner George Apostolakis

Party: Democrat

Term expires: June 30, 2014

Background: Apostolakis came to the NRC from academia — he was a professor of nuclear science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He’s received awards for his work on nuclear reactor safety, where his focus is reactor design, security and risk management.

Yucca Mountain: Apostolakis remains an enigma on the Yucca Mountain project. He didn’t support a motion to stop its shutdown last year. But he recused himself from the NRC’s most recent decisions on the project, citing his involvement with the Independent Performance Assessment Review of Yucca Mountain, a study that found the site to be suitable as a nuclear waste repository.

Commissioner William Magwood

Party: Democrat

Term expires: June 30, 2015

Background: Magwood, an appointee of President Barack Obama, came to the NRC from the Department of Energy, where he headed the civilian nuclear technology program from 1998 to 2005 — the longest term of anyone to have held the highest nuclear technology position in the land. In that role, he was an advocate for the development of nuclear power. But it’s what he did before his public service that has some questioning his motives in the spat with Jaczko.

According to a report in the Huffington Post, Magwood was an adviser to Tepco, the Japanese company that owns the Fukushima power plant that sustained a catastrophic meltdown in March. Tensions at the NRC have focused largely on how relations between Jaczko and the other commissioners broke down as the chairman moved to institute protective measures in the wake of that disaster.

Yucca Mountain: Even if Magwood is working against Jaczko on post-Fukushima public safety measures, he doesn’t appear to oppose the chairman on Yucca Mountain. The final vote was 2-2, with Apostolakis recusing himself. Magwood’s vote with Jaczko prevented development of Yucca Mountain. Commissioners Kristine Svinicki and William Ostendorff were the other commissioners to vote.

Commissioner William Ostendorff

Party: Republican

Term expires: June 30, 2016

Background: Ostendorff was an Obama appointee who came to the NRC from the House of Representatives and the National Nuclear Security Administration, positions from which he oversaw the country’s nuclear defenses, including space, missile defense and intelligence, according to a biography at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website. Before that, Ostendorff was a career naval officer with a specialization in attack submarines.

Yucca Mountain: Ostendorff is best known to Nevadans for writing a memo last year opposing the shuttering of the Yucca Mountain project. Ostendorff was joined by Commissioner Kristine Svinicki in his efforts — conducted in private but later made public — but couldn’t draw support from any other commissioner. As a result, the shutdown process began.

Commissioner Kristine Svinicki

Party: Republican

Term expires: June 30, 2012

Background: Svinicki was appointed to the NRC by President George W. Bush after serving a line of pro-nuclear (and pro-Yucca Mountain) Republican senators including Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Virginia Sen. John Warner and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, as a policy adviser on topics including nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. Before that, she was a nuclear engineer for the federal government.

Yucca Mountain: Although NRC votes are officially private, Svinicki and Ostendorff have taken recent public steps to keep Yucca Mountain from being shuttered while the other commissioners have avoided involvement.

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  1. Enjoyed the article, Karoun. Very informative.

    Without having it spelled out loud and clear, you have just outlined clearly the narrow minded intentions of the various lobbyists and special interests involved.

    It seems since they cannot win hearts and minds, they have went to Option B. They want Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) shoved down Nevada's throat, whether we want it or not. Not to mention the fact they want the shelf life of outmoded, outdated nuclear plants extended beyond their original 40 years where they are definitively declared obsolete, unsafe and accidents waiting to happen. Accidents that will pretty much be the same in magnitude like what occurred in Fukushima, Japan.

    The board members are not getting their way, so they are going the way of hostile takeover. And using Representative Issa (R-CA) and his Salem witch hunting team along with other goon squads to achieve their political aims.

    This reeks of people trying to make money. Public safety and the intentions of Nevada are not important to these vampires.

    Bring it on. We fight and stand with Mr. Jaczko. Because he indeed fights the noble fight.

    Make them spend money, lots of it, and waste time.

    Also, those current board members can easily be replaced for not doing their job. If not that route, then we wait them out to expire their terms and get politicians in there that cannot be corrupted.

    It can be easily said that people get a foul taste in their mouths about YMP and the current state of the nuclear industry in America. It's all politics and money. It's not about anything else. Just politics and money. The public safety and welfare are not important.

    One thing for sure, I'm so glad we have people sticking up for doing what's right about nuclear safety, as well as standing up for Nevada. We don't want YMP. No means no means no and it STILL means no.

  2. Nevadans have spoken about allowing the Yucca Mountain High Level Radioactive Waste Respository with a resounding "NO!" and there continues to be corrupt individuals and lobbyists who keep trying to push it being open. No means No folks.

    Ship the hazardous high level radioactive waste to the very welcoming arms of those at the Los Alamos Laboratory, in New Mexico. They are crying out for the stuff, give it to them with Nevadan's blessings!!!

    Nevada doesn't even produce or generate such waste. The People of Nevada don't want it. Yet there are some folks who see a profit for their pockets (and not Nevada's) that want nothing more that to by-pass safety for their own selfish gain. What ever happened to caring about your fellow man?

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. @ Future and @ SgtRock: A BIG thank you for saving me the time and keystrokes to respond to the SUN and the likes of Colin and Star, and I'm sure Birdie will chime in soon...

    Folks, get REAL... 1) Nevada is ~85 Government land, 2) the NWPA is STILL the law of the land, 3) ONLY through Reid's corrupt ways is Jaczko the NRC Chairman, 4) Las Vegas & NV desperately needs the jobs and cash flow, 5) Jaczko will be discredited as the political tool that he is, 6) the final determination by the NRC will be that the YMP is safe and can be constructed, and 7) when Reid is no longer Senate Majority Leader in 2012, the YMP will be back on as fast as you can say "Go Nukes!" : )

  4. Nevada is OUR land. We fight for it.

    The NWPA is not the law of the land. This cannot be rammed down our throats when it's essentially a bad idea. And an idea that Nevada don't want. Last time I checked, Nevada has every right to stand up for itself. It's called States' rights. WE decide what is best for Nevada. No one else. This is not in our interest.

    You call Senator Reid corrupt only because he is standing up for Nevada, along with Mr. Jaczko. It fits an agenda. For some stupid reason, when hardball politics is thrown right back in your faces, all of a sudden it's considered corruption. Gimme a break.

    Guaranteed Las Vegas and Southern Nevada need jobs, but this Yucca thing is not the solution. From all indications, the jobs it will provide will be jobs to people who get sent to Nevada, people with specialties, NOT normal everyday Nevadans. Additionally, the short term benefits (jobs and money) is a deal with the devil. We are accepting handling the most dangerous substance known to mankind, and handing it off to our children's children's children? Not a sound investment. I wouldn't blame future generations if they urinate on our graves for what we did in the past in the eventuality we accept Yucca to go forward.

    Mr. Jaczko is essentially being crucified purely for political purposes and to ram an agenda down Nevada's throat. He is actually doing his job, but all of a sudden he's corrupt and not doing his job? Again, gimme a break.

    Don't matter if YMP is safe or not. WE DON'T WANT IT! We have people fighting this.

    Go ahead and wait it our for Senator Reid to retire. Won't matter. Because something else will happen first: The proponents for Yucca will run out of money, realize they wasted their precious time in courts getting nothing done, all resulting in no forward movement on this issue AT ALL. So keep blowing that money and wasting time. Then it will be that much sooner when Yucca gets turned into a hotdog stand or an expensive flower pot or something else. I make a suggestion Criss Angel BeLIEve move it's show there. Save tourists from wasting money on substandard entertainment at the Luxor. Because he's a certified hack.

    Keep trying, Yuccoids. Not gonna happen.