Nuclear chief Jaczko in no hurry to step down

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko acknowledged Wednesday that it could be a while before he steps down as head of the agency, despite announcing plans to resign this week.

And he declined to outright dismiss the possibility that he could be re-nominated to a second term as chairman if his successor is not confirmed by next year.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Right now my focus is on nuclear safety and I have been privileged and honored to serve in this position, and right now I intend to continue to serve out my term,” Jaczko said at a press conference in Charlotte, N.C., the chairman’s first public appearance since announcing his plan to step down.

“If by that time, a successor has not been found, then I’ll deal with those issues at that time.”

The comments came a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested that Jaczko could be re-nominated if his successor is not confirmed by June 30, 2013, when the chairman’s first term ends.

“We hope to have a replacement before that. But if we don’t, Greg will be there for the duration,” Reid told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday. “And if something doesn't work out, he can always be re-nominated.”

Pressed by reporters Wednesday for clarification of his remarks, Jaczko added: “I announced my resignation contingent on a successor being nominated and confirmed. And until that time I intend to continue to serve as chairman.”

Asked if he intends to serve out his term, Jaczko said, “It depends on the process whether a successor is nominated and confirmed. So if that happens before the end of my term, then I would leave at that time.”

The White House has said President Obama hopes to nominate Jaczko’s replacement “soon.” But Reid’s comments Tuesday cast doubt on how quickly the nomination will move through the Senate.

The Senate is also grappling with the re-nomination of Republican NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, who faces opposition from Reid and other top Democrats.

Reid has been a vocal defender of Jaczko, his former aide, amid allegations that he bullied NRC staff.

Republicans have added the allegations to the long list of reasons they dislike Jaczko’s leadership on the commission. Other reasons include Jaczko’s decision to close out a review of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and the chairman’s opposition to recent approvals of new nuclear reactors.

Jaczko again defended his tenure at the NRC Wednesday and denied that his resignation had anything to do with a pending inspector general report examining his leadership on the panel.

“Any inspector general report had nothing to do with this decision,” he said.

The chairman repeated the assertion that he made his decision in order to give the president and the Senate time to name a successor.

“The timing I thought was appropriate for the president and the Senate to find a replacement for me,” he said.

Jaczko declined to offer suggestions for his replacement.

“I’m not involved in the process of identifying a replacement,” he said.