Top nuke regulator defends his tenure: ‘I hold people accountable’

The report -- which said Jaczko’s actions did not violate any laws -- also included anonymous statements from staff and NRC officials bashing the chairman’s leadership style as “unprofessional and manipulative.” A former NRC chairman described Jaczko as “ruling by intimidation.”

“His conduct has clearly damaged the credibility of the agency,” Inhofe said Thursday.

But Jaczko dismissed the criticism at the hearing, which focused on nuclear safety in light of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

“There are going to be difficult issues and difficult discussions that we will sometimes have at the agency,” Jaczko said. “But I feel very strongly that I have not experienced staff being shy around me and being unwilling to tell me what they think.”

Jaczko said the criticism of his leadership style is not an official finding of the inspector general report.

“All of those statements that you read were not findings of the IG, which means that they were statements that some people made that they couldn’t corroborate or they couldn’t substantiate to the point that they became an official finding,” Jaczko said.

Jaczko said he is a “very passionate and intense person.”

“I hold people accountable for their actions at the agency and that’s what I’ve done since I became chairman,” he said.

Republicans have pounced on the inspector general report, bashing Jaczko for his efforts to abandon the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

The report found that Jaczko “strategically” withheld key information from his fellow commissioners about his intentions to close a technical review of the Yucca Mountain project’s license application. The majority of NRC commissioners ultimately disagreed with Jaczko’s decision, the report said.

One House Republican even called on Jaczko to resign earlier this week.

But Jaczko said he plans to stay on as chairman of the commission.

“I intend to continue to do my job to ensure the public health and safety and I intend to fully serve out my term as chairman,” he told reporters.

Republicans’ criticism of Jaczko is part of a broader effort by the GOP to slam the Obama administration for last year slashing funding and withdrawing the license application for the Yucca project. Republicans say the move is politically motivated.

Democrats, for their part, sought to steer the hearing away from discussion of the inspector general report.

Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) described Republican criticisms of Jaczko as “an attack,” noting that the inspector general report said the NRC chairman did not break the law.

Democrats focused their questioning on nuclear safety, the stated purpose of the hearing. The NRC is 60 days into a 90-day initial review of the country’s nuclear reactors in light of the disaster in Japan.

Jaczko said Thursday the review will likely result in regulatory changes, but stressed that he believes the country’s nuclear fleet is safe.

“The likelihood of something like this happening in the United States is still very, very small," he said.