Rep. Issa says nuclear agency in ‘crisis’ amid internal battle

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is in “crisis” amid newly revealed complaints by four commissioners that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is undermining the body.

Issa’s comments Monday follow his Friday release of a mid-October letter to the White House from four NRC commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — that slammed Jazco’s leadership and alleged his conduct could undermine nuclear safety.

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“If the two Democrats on the commission appointed by President Obama, plus two Republicans, one reappointed by President Obama, cannot find any basis to continue working with this chairman, that is an independent agency telling us it is in crisis,” Issa said on MSNBC Monday.

Issa is holding a hearing Wednesday where Jaczko and the other four NRC commissioners are slated to testify. Issa said it’s important to determine if Jaczko is acting as chairman or a “dictator.”

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), appearing on the same program Monday, defended Jaczko.

He cast the complaints as an effort to stymie power plant safety reforms that Jaczko is seeking to implement in the wake of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant earlier this year.

“There are four commissioners who do not want to do this. They are consistent with a tradition of this agency being a lapdog, and not a watchdog, for nuclear safety for the American public,” said Markey, a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and longtime nuclear power critic.

“Chairman Jaczko, as a nuclear physicist, is standing up and saying post-Fukushima, we have to learn the lessons, build in the safety measures, in order to protect the American public,” Markey said of Jaczko, praising him for standing up to the nuclear power industry.

Jaczko is a former aide to Markey and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Issa criticized Markey's characterization of the dispute, arguing the Massachusetts congressman should instead “recognize that we need to look at where this conflict really comes from, why they can’t resolve it at an agency that has historically elevated safety in America every year.”

E2 has more on the NRC dispute here, here and here.