Outgoing NRC Chairman Jaczko Criticized for 'Bullying' in Inspector General Report

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko (National Journal)

The Office of the Inspector General at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found "more than 15 examples" of outgoing NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko using "intimidating and bullying tactics" in order to push his own objectives at the regulatory agency that oversees the nation's 104 nuclear plants.

Moreover, the much-anticipated IG report released on Tuesday found that Jaczko's testimony before Congress last December on some of these allegations was "inconsistent, in five areas, with testimony provided to OIG by NRC senior officials."

The release of the report nearly concludes a year-long saga that began with an inspector general report in June 2011 criticizing Jaczko for not being "forthcoming" with his fellow commissioners leading up to the shutdown of the controversial nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

In the wake of the report and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster earlier that year, the four other members of the commission raised concerns about Jaczko's leadership style to then-White House Chief of Staff William Daley, charging that Jaczko had created "a chilled work environment" at the agency by bullying and withholding information from his fellow commissioners. Following months of turmoil, Jaczko announced his resignation last month.

The inspector general report released on Tuesday examined the allegations about Jaczko's behavior, finding that his actions, in some cases, hindered the agency's ability to function properly.

"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 report said.

"The Chairman says that he welcomes disagreement and challenges the staff for the good of the agency. However, many of the people who personally experienced or witnessed these interactions did not perceive these exchanges in a positive manner. The impact is that some senior officials avoid interactions with the Chairman and may limit what they tell the Chairman, which is contradictory to both NRC's values and an open and collaborative work environment."

While the report found that Jaczko created a difficult working environment at the agency, the general counsel cleared the outgoing chairman on some of the more concrete charges about his leadership. The IG report also does not address whether Jaczko specifically targeted and verbally abused women — a charge that has been repeatedly made by commissioners and vehemently denied by Jaczko.

The report responds to a variety of allegations about Jaczko's leadership following the nuclear disaster in Japan last year and finds that his actions were consistent with his authority at chairman of the agency. When Jaczko assumed emergency powers after Japan's accident, he was "within the scope of his authorities" even though Fukushima had occurred at a foreign facility.

In that same vein, the IG report found that Jaczko did not violate Internal Commission Procedures when it came to withholding the findings of a staff report on the events in Japan. The NRC general counsel said that the agency's "full access requirement was met," as all commissioners were ultimately able to consider the information in that report.

In terms of controlling content, the IG report is vague, finding that the chairman's authority at the NRC has been interpreted in different ways by different chairmen.

"While a Senate committee noted the Chairman was to serve only as a conduit to pass information forward, a House Committee noted that Chairman was responsible for guiding, developing and presenting policy proposals and options to the commission," the report said. These examples account for a "lack of clarity" about the chairman's role in transmitting information to his fellow commissioners, the IG said.

The report found that Jaczko "interprets his authority broadly and, at times, attempts to control the flow of information to the Commission." If the chairman disagrees with staff views, he is not supposed to attempt to alter those views, but should instead "present the staff's recommendations as received and articulate his position separately, differing or not, to the Commission," according to an established NRC definition of the chairman's authority, the report said.

In a statement, Jaczko said, "The report raises nothing new of substance."

His former employer, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called the report "a welcome vindication of Chairman Jaczko and his leadership of the Commission."

"What this report shows is that Greg Jackzo has been the victim of a sustained and mean-spirited whispering campaign by hostile NRC Commissioners who resented a strong Chairman with a real commitment to nuclear safety who wanted to turn the NRC into a real watchdog," Markey said.

But Senate Republicans led by Environment and Public Works ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., who originally requested the report, called it a "vindication" of the four commissioners who stepped forward to question the chairman's leadership style.

"The NRC IG report released today verifies the concerns brought forward by Chairman Jaczko's colleagues last year — it is vindication for their efforts," Inhofe said. "I look forward to a new chapter at the NRC beginning with the confirmation vote this week for Jazcko's replacement, Allison Macfarlane, and especially one of the whistleblowers, Kristine Svinicki, who should be re-confirmed to serve another term as an NRC Commissioner."

A Senate vote on confirmation of Macfarlane and Svinicki is expected by the end of the week, with Jaczko's resignation effective upon Macfarlane's confirmation.