Jaczko: NRC might not meet deadline to impose nuke safety reforms

While stressing that there is “no imminent threat” at U.S. reactors, the task force’s final report called for wide-ranging improvements to the NRC’s “existing patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives.”

The commission has opted to move forward on nearly all of the task force’s recommendations and has set a goal of implementing the reforms within five years.

But Jaczko said Wednesday that a staff proposal outlining actions the NRC should take to implement the new rules indicates that the five-year timeline could slip.

“Those actions suggest that the timeline for completion will be well beyond five years,” he said.

But at least one NRC commissioner disagrees with Jaczko’s comments. Commissioner William Magwood told The Wall Street Journal that the agency "may actually be ahead of schedule." The Journal first reported that the NRC might not meet the timeline Tuesday night.

Despite the potential delay, Jaczko stressed that the country’s nuclear reactors “are all safe,” echoing comments from the NRC’s other commissioners.

Jaczko has clashed with his fellow colleagues over how quickly the commission should implement the new rules. Some commissioners have called for a cost-benefit analysis of each recommendation.

Jaczko said Wednesday that he disagreed with the need to conduct such analyses, noting that both the federal task force and NRC staff have said that implementation of the rules should not be affected by cost.

“I believe, consistent with what the staff of the agency has recommended, that these changes are necessary to prevent a Fukushima-type accident,” Jaczko said.

Wednesday’s comments underscore long-time tension among the NRC commissioners.

Four NRC commissioners, two Republicans and two Democrats, alleged in a letter to the White House in October that Jaczko is causing “serious damage” to the agency that could harm the body’s ability to protect health and safety.

The commissioners, in a unified rebuke of Jaczko’s leadership, cited “grave concerns” about what they called his increasingly “erratic” conduct.

Jaczko defended his leadership on the commission Wednesday.

“I think that’s a very important tenant of our commission, that we’re able to express publicly our different views,” he said.

“I can’t make everybody agree with me, nor do I want to. I can’t keep them from talking to the press, nor do I want to.”

Jaczko said that he met with staff and his fellow commissioners to address their concerns and he is trying to improve communication at the agency.

“I worked to address any misperceptions or miscommunications that have been made,” he said.