Probe: Colleagues of nuke chief Jaczko felt bullied, intimidated

A long-awaited investigation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspector general (IG) found numerous cases in which outgoing NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko failed to support an “open and collaborative work environment.” 

However, the same report — which covers various allegations against the controversial official — also found Jaczko did not exceed his authority following last year’s nuclear plant catastrophe in Japan.

The findings provide fodder for both critics and supporters of Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who has announced he will step down once the Senate confirms his replacement.

The IG’s office “identified more than 15 examples of interactions between the chairman and NRC senior executives and commissioners where the chairman’s behavior was not supportive of an open and collaborative work environment,” states an executive summary of the report.

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It notes that senior executives and Jaczko’s fellow commissioners “provided specific examples of what they perceived as intimidating and bullying tactics by Chairman Jaczko so that they would be influenced to side with the chairman’s opinion despite their own judgment.”

Elsewhere, the report probes Jaczko’s actions in the wake of the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and concludes they were “within the scope of his authorities” and that he made “reasonable efforts” to keep the other commissioners informed.

The Senate is slated to confirm Allison Macfarlane, the White House nominee who will replace Jaczko, later this week.

Jaczko announced his resignation in May following a tenure that included his four fellow NRC commissioners openly criticizing his behavior and management style, even complaining to the White House last year that he was causing “serious damage” to the agency.

“The NRC IG report released today verifies the concerns brought forward by chairman Jaczko's colleagues last year — it is vindication for their efforts. It took a great deal of courage for the four Commissioners to come together in a bipartisan effort, putting the NRC's mission of safety above all else, as Mr. Jaczko's abuse of his power was preventing them from doing their jobs,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in a statement Tuesday.

But Jaczko’s defenders on Capitol Hill say he has been targeted for taking stances on safety — including the pace of post-Fukushima reforms — that have run afoul of the industry.

“This report is a welcome vindication of chairman Jaczko and his leadership of the Commission during the worst nuclear disaster in history,” said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in a statement.

“What this report shows is that Greg Jackzo has been the victim of a sustained and mean-spirited whispering campaign by hostile NRC Commissioners who resented a strong chairman with a real commitment to nuclear safety who wanted to turn the NRC into a real watchdog,” he said.

Jaczko once served as a congressional science fellow in Markey’s office.

The outgoing NRC chairman defended his tenure in a statement Tuesday.

“I have felt confident all along that my actions have been consistent with my responsibilities and authorities as chairman, and certainly that there was no wrongdoing. This report underscores my belief. I appreciate the Inspector General’s independent investigation and am glad to put this behind us. The report raises nothing new of substance,” Jaczko said.

He touts his safety efforts in the statement as well.

“I have worked every day with an intense and singular focus on the agency's mission, and if I were asked to do it all again — that would not change,” Jaczko said. The whole statement is available here.

Jaczko has strongly denied allegations that he has been verbally abusive.

The IG report notes that Jaczko says he “welcomes disagreement and challenges the staff for the good of the agency.” But it adds that many people who experienced or witnessed these interactions “did not perceive these exchanges in a positive manner.”