Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

Currently: 81° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Gregory Jaczko, at center of acrimony, announces resignation from NRC

The Reid nominee, a staunch critic of developing Yucca Mountain as a high-level nuclear waste dump, says he will leave after Congress selects his successor

Image

THE NEW YORK TIMES

From right: Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko, NRC Commissioner William Magwood and NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki are sworn in before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 14, 2011. Jaczko faced criticism over his management style from fellow commissioners.

Click to enlarge photo

Harry Reid

WASHINGTON — Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko announced Monday morning in a letter posted on the commission’s website that he would be resigning as soon as Congress could confirm a replacement.

His announcement heralds an end to a particularly acrimonious period in the NRC’s history, in which the infighting and power-struggles between the chairman and other commissioners over licensing Yucca Mountain and the U.S.’s response to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown alarmed lawmakers to such an extent that they launched congressional inquiries and investigations into the inner workings of the organization.

But Jaczko’s resignation also throws a monkey wrench into future planning for the commission: In the next month, Congress was supposed to be deciding whether to renew the term of commissioner Kristine Svinicki, a Republican appointee vehemently opposed by Sen. Harry Reid and not particularly well-liked by Sen. Barbara Boxer, though Boxer did agree to hold a hearing on her re-nomination in the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Now, there’s a chance that Congress will have to debate two nominees instead of just one.

“This is the right time to pass along the public safety torch to a new chairman who will keep a strong focus on carrying out the vital mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” Jaczko said in his parting statement.

Jaczko, a Democratic commissioner, was first appointed to the NRC in 2005; he became chairman in 2009. Prior to his career on the NRC, he worked as an adviser on science and nuclear policy to Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

It was Reid who initially recommended him for consideration to the NRC, and strongly defended him throughout the last year, when Republican lawmakers came down on hard on Jaczko, accusing him of running the NRC like a dictatorship and manipulating agency processes to attain politically-desirable outcomes for Democrats — including the shutdown of the nuclear waste repository being constructed at Yucca Mountain.

“Greg was my trusted aide for many years and his talent in applying science to public policy was an asset to my staff and the state of Nevada,” Reid said in a statement about Jaczko’s announced departure. “He dedicated his tenure to improving the safety of nuclear energy and his leadership during the Fukushima nuclear crisis protected millions of Americans ... I am confident whomever replaces Chairman Jaczko will share his commitment to protecting the safety of the American people over the interests of a single industry.”

The White House has not yet said if they intend to move quickly to identify a nominee to replace Jaczko or if it plans to wait, letting Jaczko operate as a lame-duck chairman for an unspecified length of time. Neither has the White House identified a potential replacement for Jaczko as chairman, though there are two other Democrats on the commission who may be considered for the job: William Magwood and George Apostolakis, both of whom were sworn in to their terms in April 2010. The five-member commission is made up of two Democratic members, two Republican members, and one chairman who affiliates with the party of the sitting president.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 2 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. The tragedy is Yucca Mtn being closed. NIMBY should not concern Nevadans when it comes to making money. Witness Las Vegas, "Sin City," which most Nevadans, I think, have no problem with. I suppose, today, if someone wanted to set up a gambling/showtime enterprise in a near-ghost town LV, Harry Reid, et al., would say "NIMBY."

    Ah, these Mormons. Who are they, really? So, "Sin City" is ok, but a nuclear waste repository is not? When did Reid, et al., get religion?

    Look, this country will need massive amounts of electricity, far into the future. A few decades ago, it was "plastics." Now, it's "electricity," and Nevada can be on the ground floor, not only with waste disposal, but numerous buried reactors out in the desert, a far more seismically stable area than Japan, for example. No tsunamis in Neveda, either.

    Let Nevada go nuclear. Big time. Let the state glow as much as VEGAS does now. So what? Nevada would be nothing without "Sin City." With nuclear power generation, Nevada can be something more. What else is there for Nevada on that scale?

  2. A living example of a Moment of Zen. Someone resigns effective on confirmation of a successor by a body notorious for not being able confirming anyone or anything. Jazko's resignation as chair of the NRC has the look and feel of a resignation which will never take effect.