Remove Obama’s Nuclear Regulator

December 14th, 2011 at 12:16 am | 23 Comments |

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One of the raps against President Obama is that he’s in over his head due, in part, to lack of executive management experience.

Here’s one thing Obama could do to shore up his management credentials: find a way to get rid of Greg Jaczko as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Now would be a good time.

Jaczko’s four colleagues—two Republicans and two Democrats—sent a remarkable letter to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley that said Jaczko is a bullying, mercurial control freak who keeps vital information from his colleagues, browbeats technical advisers, and intimidates NRC professional staff.

Jaczko, his four colleagues told Daley, has interacted with them “with such intemperance and disrespect that the commission no longer functions as effectively as it should.”

A chairman’s bad behavior can poison any collegial body. This isn’t the state cosmetology board we’re talking about here, however. It’s the commission charged with overseeing the safety of America’s nuclear power plants, passing judgment on reactor designs, and licensing the final resting place or places for dangerous nuclear wastes.

And what did former Jaczko boss Ed Markey have to say about all this? Markey, a high-profile Dem on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, accused the four commissioners of conspiring to delay tightening of reactor safeguards following the Fukushima accident and of plotting a “coup” against Jaczko.

Conspiracy and coup mongering are serious accusations. If Markey were to be believed, four wild-eyed individuals—a nuclear engineer and adviser to former Senator John Warner, a MIT engineering professor, a former head of DOE’s nuclear energy program during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and a retired Navy submarine squadron commander—are conniving intrigues straight out of a bad spy novel.

Pardon us if we don’t find Markey’s wild charges to be convincing. Last June, the NRC inspector general released a report taking Jaczko to task for intimidating staff and keeping fellow commissioners in the dark about his intentions to close down the proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository. Is the IG part of the plot too?

Closing down Yucca fulfills the political agenda of one Harry Reid, another former boss of Jaczko, who railed about a supposed “witch hunt” against the imperious NRC boss. Jaczko’s appointment smells like it was designed to advance a political objective, not to provide competent, objective leadership to the NRC.

At a crucial time for the U.S. nuclear industry, the NRC doesn’t need a chairman straight out of “Horrible Bosses.” Obama needs to fix a vital agency that’s in serious trouble by finding a way to replace Jaczko with a chairman who can get along with his or her colleagues and treat them and professional staff with the respect they deserve. If Reid and Markey don’t like it, that’s too bad.

Recent Posts by Jim DiPeso



23 Comments so far ↓

  • rbottoms

    Horse Hockey.

    • Demosthenes

      I disagree completely, Mr. Dipeso makes a good case for a new head of the NRC.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        The problem is if Obama gets rid of him he will not be able to replace him as Republicans are filibustering every appointment everywhere in an attempt to cripple Obama, to replace him they would probably demand that the ACA be eliminated, tax cuts to the rich be made permanent, etc.

        Sad how Dipeso doesn’t mention the political pitfalls of doing so.

        • Raskolnik

          That is very true, although I wonder if the Congressional Republican plan really is to simply filibuster everything for the next 11 months. Are they really so out of touch that they expect no repercussions? (Don’t answer that!)

        • balconesfault

          Sadly, they’re in touch enough to know that in general they won’t pay any penalty for it. The media has been covering GOP filibusters as if they are largely a problem with Obama not being willing to compromise enough.

      • rbottoms

        But Obama is Stalin. Do you want Stalin proposing the head of the NRC? Maybe he could get John Hunstman confirmed, I hear he’ll be available shortly.

      • Ray_Harwick

        …is a bullying, mercurial control freak who keeps vital information from his colleagues, browbeats technical advisers, and intimidates NRC professional staff.

        Sounds more like John Bolton, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Anybody got a problem with them?

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  • superdestroyer

    Who cares? Nuclear power if a dead industry in the world. People would rather freeze in their homes than build another nuclear power plant.

    What is most amazing about the NRC is that they keep adding staff while the indsutry keeps shrinking. Now that the nuclear power industry has died, maybe the NRC should lay off all of the staff that was hired to license new reactors that will, now, not be built.

    • Raskolnik

      Nuclear power is a dead industry in the world

      Not even remotely.

      http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-11-25/china/30440618_1_nuclear-power-zhang-guobao-china-daily

      “China currently has 14 reactors and 27 others, mostly of 1000 mw capacity, are under construction amounting to over 40 per cent of the global total, according to data from the World Nuclear Association, the Daily reported.”

      http://www.2point6billion.com/news/2011/03/21/china-and-india-rethink-nuclear-power-use-after-japan-earthquake-8869.html

      “With another five plants under construction, India hopes to see its nuclear power output reach 64,000MWe by 2032.”

      and

      “Russia, whose nuclear power contributes 16 percent to its total power generation every year, is looking to double its nuclear power generation by 2020, in order to reduce natural gas consumption. Just last week, Russia signed a new agreement with Belarus to finance and build the country’s first nuclear power plant, which is worth US$6 billion.”

      Fukushima was an engineering success story, with zero fatalities from radiation exposure. It is also worth noting that the plants mentioned above all use conventional reactor designs; if/when the LFTR gets built, it will be a game-changer. Bottom line, this is an area where the U.S. still has a huge technological & manufacturing advantage, and there is absolutely no reason to allow the atomic energy industry to become dominated by foreign powers.

      • armstp

        great some developing countries are building plants that were long planned, but i think you need to check the stock prices of companies that build nuclear power plants.

      • indy

        I believe there are also 25 or so new reactors planned for the US as a result of the 2005 energy policy bill. I doubt most of them will be built, but 1 or 2 are in construction already I think.

        Also, in real dollars I also think the NRC has lost budget in the last the several years.

        In other words, I’m pretty sure this poster got 2 out of 2 wrong. It’s just a standard rant.

        • armstp

          There is only one nuclear plant being built and the only reason it is being built is because Obama approved government loan guarantees last year.

          There are like 25 that are being proposed, but none of them have arranged any financing. I bet none of them will be built and certainly not without government backing. All the BS regarding Solyndra has probably killed the potential for further loan guarantees for the nuclear industry. Given that the GOP is a bigger supporter of the nuclear industry, they have probably shot themselves in the foot with their Solyndra fuss.

        • superdestroyer

          With no disposal pathway for the spent fuel, the federal government has ensured that no reactor will be licensed due to activist lawsuits.

          The Republicans may be pro-nuclear but the Bar Association and the judges are against nuclear power and will ensure that no new reactors will be built.

          However, the NRC will probably not reduce headcount even if there is no reason to employ people to review new licenses.

  • armstp

    well this article is one side of the story. any good manager knows you must consider all sides. given how political government has become and the notorious money and lobbying of the nuclear industry it would not be surpurising if the four commissioners were in the back pocket of the nuclear industry as they always seem to be.

  • Watusie

    “One of the raps against President Obama is that he’s in over his head due, in part, to lack of executive management experience.”

    By “raps” you mean “fabricated bits of nonsense from the party who has made winning back the White House their number one priority, over and above the welfare of the nation”.

    • LFC

      In over his head? Do you mean as compared to Bush, who had years of supposed “executive experience” and a staff of supposedly experienced people? Or McCain who tripped over his own feet, couldn’t run a decent campaign, and picked Caribou Barbie and her “executive experience” to be V-P?

      That’s compared to the guy who managed to get universal health care passed after decades of blocking, got a floor under the worst economy left to a President in 80 or so years, bagged OBL, has been blowing AQ to smithereens, is getting us out of Iraq, and on and on. And all this with the most dedicated opposition who has taken the filibuster threat to heights never seen before (totally stagnating Congress’s ability to do practically anything), who held our ability to pay our debts hostage to score political points, and literally have voted against their own ideas when Obama says he likes them.

      Yeah. I’ll stick with the got who is in “over his head”, thank you very much.

      • balconesfault

        Yes, and he is so over his head, that we’ve had tons of stories about mismanagement of public agencies, about how stimulus dollars were absorbed by the private sector with no accountability, and how his regulatory enforcement arms are completely toothless, leading to various worker safety, food supply, and environmental disasters.

        Or not. Oh – there’s Solyandra. The loan guarantee that the Bush Admin wanted to approve but ran out of time. Otherwise … from all evidence the Obama Administration has been running the Executive Branch offices like a well oiled machine.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      In addition to being in over his head, it’s important to remember that Obama is a socialist who will stop at nothing to nationalize every industry because of his commitment to the “gay and secular fascism” of his “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” background.

      Both quotes from the GOP front-runner du jour, available here: http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/97553/newt-gingrich-terrible-things-list

      As to the rest of this post, armstp is right that this is just one side. That said, this sure doesn’t sound good for Jaczko. It’s not really at this level, but I’m reminded of the exchange from Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry”:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9wnNQ1zNB4
      Dolly: Meanwhile, he got into debt. Deeper and deeper. And then carry on with the neighbor. Oy, my heart! He can’t get himself out of a predicament. So what does he do?
      Elsie: He stole money.
      Dolly: I should be so lucky! He killed his wife!
      Elsie: No!
      Dolly: The man purchased an ax.
      Elsie: With an ax?
      Dolly: You know Max. He’s nothing with tools. He can’t even hang a picture.
      Elsie: I’m dropping dead!
      Dolly: Plus her children! Plus the neighbor! Four. Four people he killed in one night with an ax.
      Elsie: Your Max?
      Dolly: And this is not the capper.
      Elsie: There’s more?
      Dolly: More!
      Elsie: What more?
      Dolly: He ate them.
      Elsie: What, are you talking crazy?
      Dolly: He devoured them. I can’t breathe. Everything is closing in.
      Elsie: Whatever you do… first hear Max’s side.
      Dolly: Max has a side? He kills his family and eats them up. The man has a side?

  • LauraNo

    …and what did … Ed Markey have to say about all this? Markey, a high-profile Dem on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, accused the four commissioners of conspiring to delay tightening of reactor safeguards following the Fukushima accident and of plotting a “coup” against Jaczko.”

    I think I’ll take his word for it over yours, as one of you knows what he’s talking about and the other is conjecturing. Besides, it’s not as if we don’t know there are many conservative dems and repubs unwilling to regulate any industry, at nearly any potential price to pay; can you say, “world wide financial collapse” and “BP” with a straight face while denying this?

  • Sinan

    According to other sources, this is really about this guy trying to enact new regulations that came about as a result of the Fukishima disaster. Issa is so partisan that he will not likely ever touch this potential reason for this public display of hissy fitting…

    • superdestroyer

      The head of the NRC does not want Yucca mountain to open. Thus we will do everything he can to keep it from opening. That is why he is bullying his staff.