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Gregory Jaczko, NRC Chairman, Targeted By GOP Senators Over Japan Crisis Comments

Gregory Jaczko

MATTHEW DALY   08/25/11 06:31 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON — Four Republican senators are asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's inspector general to investigate the agency's chairman for what they say is a continued pattern of withholding information from colleagues and acting unilaterally on the commission's behalf.

Lawmakers from both parties have criticized NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, asserting that he has an overly secretive and controlling style.

The GOP lawmakers say the latest example stems from Jaczko's declaration in March that Japan's nuclear crisis constituted an emergency in the United States.

GOP Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana said it is not clear that Jaczko had authority to make such a declaration, which grants him additional powers, since the crisis occurred on foreign soil. The senators also said they were not certain that Jaczko has rescinded the order, despite his public claims to the contrary.

A recent report by the NRC's inspector general said Jaczko withheld and manipulated information in an effort to stop work on a proposed radioactive waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The inspector general, Hubert Bell, said Jaczko's behavior was "wrong" but not illegal.

"We are concerned that this pattern of wrong behavior has not only continued, but expanded beyond the Yucca issue to the Fukushima review process," the lawmakers said Thursday in a letter to Bell, naming the Japanese nuclear plant.

They said Jaczko has repeatedly thwarted the five-member commission's ability to make decisions in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility.

An agency spokesman said Thursday that Jaczko acted within his authority, citing congressional testimony by the commission's top lawyer.

Steve Burns, the NRC's general counsel, told a Senate committee Aug. 2 that Jaczko's actions "were consistent with the powers that he has under the statute."

While there was no specific event at a U.S. nuclear plant, the Japanese crisis presented an overall "threat environment" to U.S. sites, Burns told the Senate Environment Committee.

Jaczko, testifying at the same hearing, said he had informally rescinded the order, adding that no formal report was necessary because he had kept commissioners informed of his actions all along.

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Follow Matthew Daly on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

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Filed by Alana Horowitz  |