* Jaczko says safety issues take too long to be addressed
* Reform legacy overshadowed by questions about his management style
* Speaks to industry officials who have chafed at his reforms
By Rick Rothacker
CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 23 (Reuters) - The departing head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission o n W ednesday continued to press for heightened safety regulations, at a meeting of industry officials who have often chafed at his push for new rules.
Gregory Jaczko said the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex was a "wake-up call hopefully for everyone," but said more work needs to be done to improve reactor safety.
"Safety issues that take 10, 15 years to resolve are not helpful for anyone," Gregory Jaczko told a news conference after speaking at an annual industry meeting held in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"That is an area where we need to continue to make progress, and where I think the industry has work to do as well."
In remarks to reporters, Jaczko said he would leave it to others to judge the legacy of his reform efforts, which have been overshadowed by complaints about his management style. He also side-stepped questions about rancor within the five-member commission.
"I enjoy my job a lot," Jaczko said. "I care passionately about nuclear safety so I enjoy the opportunity to engage my colleagues in debates and discussions."
It was his first major public appearance since he announced his resignation on Monday. A series of reports and congressional hearings have painted Jaczko as a bully who had reduced some senior female employees to tears. Jaczko, 41, has consistently dismissed and denied the reports.
In a speech before hundreds of industry officials who have criticized his push for reforms in the wake of last year's nuclear disaster in Japan, Jaczko made a brief mention of his departure before focusing on issues he said need to be addressed.
These included investments in computer systems that could predict future problems and the need for reactor operators to use social media tools to inform the public about their operations.
He said the disaster in Japan demonstrated that the industry has a lot of work to do on emergency preparedness.
"I think there were people throughout this industry that had come to a belief that an accident of that magnitude simply was never going to happen," he said. "I've always tried to do my job without making that assumption. I have seen a change in the way people talk...because it did happen."
Jaczko, who has served on the commission since 2005, was appointed chairman by President Barack Obama in 2009. His term runs through June 2013, but he will leave once his successor has received Senate confirmation, which can often be stalled for months.
The White House has said it will nominate a new chairman soon, and the Senate may have an opportunity to move the selection through at the same time as the reconfirmation of a Republican commissioner, Kristine Svinicki, whose term expires next month.
He has said announcing his decision to step down more than a year before his term expired was "not at all" related to the accusations but rather publicly signals his intention not to pursue a second term as chairman.
Jaczko said he hasn't won't pursue other opportunities until his replacement has been confirmed or is close to being confirmed.
"I care very passionately about the important role that government can play in protecting interests of the public," he said. "I certainly hope at some point to be able to use what I've learned here in fighting for those sort of causes in the future." (Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio)
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more