White House: NRC dispute not impacting safety
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko in a March 16, 2010 file photo, taken during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. / Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON - A dispute among members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hasn't impaired the panel's work or jeopardized safety at the nation's 104 nuclear reactors, according to a top White House official.
William Daley, the president's chief of staff, says the problems stem from the commission's "strong chairman" structure, in which the leader of the five-member panel has far greater powers than the remaining four commissioners.
In a letter to the Republican chairman of a House oversight panel, Daley downplayed tension at the NRC and said commissioners have agreed to meet with a "trusted third party" to promote a better dialogue.
"While there are tensions and disagreements among the commissioners, these management differences have not impaired the commission's ability to fulfill its mission," Daley said in a letter Monday to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Daley said he and a White House lawyer met independently with each of the commissioners after four NRC commissioners sent him an Oct. 13 letter complaining about NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko. Daley declined Issa's invitation to send a White House representative to a House committee meeting Wednesday on the NRC.
In their letter, the four NRC commissioners said they had "grave concerns" about Jaczko and that his bullying style is creating a "chilled work environment at the NRC."
The letter stops short of calling for the chairman to resign, but says Jaczko's actions could adversely affect the agency's mission to protect health and safety at the nation's 104 commercial nuclear reactors.
Among other claims, the letter says Jaczko "intimidated and bullied" senior career staff, ordered staff to withhold information and ignored the will of the panel's majority. The letter was signed by Democrats William Magwood and George Apostolakis, as well as Republicans Kristine Svinicki and William Ostendorff.
Jaczko, in a detailed response also sent to the White House, said problems at the agency were not his fault but instead stem from "lack of understanding" on the part of the other four commissioners.
Daley said Jaczko has "apologized for the distraction caused by the present tensions" and has vowed to improve communications with his fellow commissioners.
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