Groups warn of 'taint' official leaves on nuclear regulator decisions

Nearly three dozen environmental groups are pressing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to postpone key votes until after outgoing commissioner William Magwood steps down, warning his involvement would "taint" the agency.

The NRC is scheduled to hold two votes on nuclear waste storage and reactor licensing on Aug. 26, but Magwood does not plan to leave for his new gig until Aug. 31.

Earlier this year, Magwood announced he would join the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency on Sept. 1, as its director general.

Environmental groups have pressed President Obama to demand Magwood resign due to what they are calling a conflict of interest for taking a job with an agency that promotes nuclear energy.

In Thursday's letter to the NRC, the 34 groups, including Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Physicians for Social Responsibility, argue Magwood "fatally" compromised his position as a regulator by "failing to recuse himself from NRC safety decisions" while sealing the deal on his new job.

“If Mr. Magwood is permitted to participate in the upcoming vote, state and local governments and members of the public – who must live with the effects of the NRC’s decisions – will have legitimate grounds to question whether Mr. Magwood unduly influenced the agency to gloss over the serious problems that attend the long-term storage and disposal of spent reactor fuel, in order to fulfill his new mission of promoting nuclear energy worldwide," the letter states.

The groups argue that if the agency postpones the two votes until after Magwood leaves, it will "alleviate the taint on the integrity of the NRC’s decision-making process created by Mr. Magwood’s continued participation in NRC safety and environmental decisions."