June 26, 2012
Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160
NRC IG Report Serves as Vindication for Four "Courageous" NRC Commissioners
Washington, D.C. - Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Office of Inspector General released a report requested by Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which confirms that as Chairman of the NRC, Gregory Jaczko was undermining the collegial function of the Commission by using "intimidating and bullying tactics" to push his own objectives, and that his testimony before Congress in December 2011 was "inconsistent, in five areas, with testimony provided to OIG by NRC senior officials." Senator Inhofe said that the report is vindication for the four Commissioners who had the courage to come forward to try to resolve the problem of Mr. Jaczko's abuse of his power. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), David Vitter (R-LA), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) joined Senator Inhofe in requesting today's NRC IG report. Before the release of the report, Mr. Jaczko announced that he would resign upon confirmation of his successor.
The emergence of this report comes ahead of a Senate confirmation vote on President Obama's choice for Jaczko's replacement, Allison Macfarlane, and a reconfirmation vote for Kristine Svinicki to serve another term as an NRC Commissioner.
Senator Inhofe: "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. On several occasions, some members of Congress attacked these Commissioners for daring to come forward and do the right thing. I would like to thank the NRC IG for preparing this report at our request. As it confirms, Mr. Jaczko was undermining the agency and its mission of safety - and he was doing this at one of the NRC's most critical junctures: in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. I look forward to a new chapter at the NRC beginning with the confirmation vote for Jazcko's replacement, Allison Macfarlane, and especially one of the whistleblowers, Kristine Svinicki, who should be re-confirmed to serve another term as an NRC Commissioner."
Senator Barrasso: "There has been a crisis of leadership at the very top of the NRC. The actions of Chairman Jaczko are unacceptable by any standard. We need integrity at the NRC-the same kind of integrity that the four current NRC Commissioners who first raised these concerns have shown. It's time we move forward and confirm a leader of the NRC that has real management expertise and integrity."
Senator Sessions: "Stability, objectivity, and good judgment are vital qualities for a chairman of the NRC-the agency that oversees the safe operation of our nation's commercial nuclear reactors. Regrettably, as the Inspector General report confirms, Dr. Jaczko did not exhibit those qualities during his tenure. The findings show that he bullied senior NRC staff and attempted to control the flow of information to the other commissioners. Moreover, the report found that Dr. Jaczko's statements to Congress have been contradicted by senior officials at the NRC. These are serious matters. Nuclear power is a clean, affordable, and reliable energy source that provides 20 percent of our nation's electricity. With new technologies, I believe there is a reawakening to the important role that more nuclear power can play in providing affordable energy security for America. Going forward, our nation needs an NRC chairman who values the role of nuclear power, who is a good manager, who understands the importance of nuclear safety, and who will faithfully fulfill the responsibilities of this important position in strict adherence to the laws of this nation."
Highlights from the OIG Report Executive Summary
Issue 5 Allegation
The Chairman's interpersonal interactions with NRC staff and Commissioners has created a chilled workplace environment at the NRC.
Issue 5 Finding
OIG identified more than 15 examples of interactions between the Chairman and NRC senior executive and Commissioners where the Chairman's behavior was not supportive of an open and collaborative work environment. NRC holds licensees accountable for behavior by senior managers that is not conducive to an environment where employees feel encouraged to raise concerns. Although no one interviewed said they would hesitate to bring a safety matter to the Chairman's attention, NRC senior executives and 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 judgments. The Chairman says he welcomes disagreement and challenges the staff for the good of the agency. However, many of the people who personally experienced or witnessed these interactions did not perceive these exchanges in a positive manner. The impact is that some senior officials avoid interactions with the Chairman and may limit what they tell the Chairman, which is contradictory to both NRC's values and an open and collaborative work environment.
Issue 6 Allegation
The Chairman provided inaccurate testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearings held in December 2011.
Issue 6 Finding
OIG found the Chairman's December 2011 testimony before the House and Senate committees was inconsistent, in five areas, with testimony provided to OIG by NRC senior officials during this investigation.
This NRC IG report released today only confirms what we have known for quite some time about Chairman Jaczko's inappropriate behavior during his tenure as Chairman of the NRC. In order to understand how Jaczko's failure of leadership escalated to the point of his resignation, it is important to evaluate all the red flags that appeared along the way.
On June 6, 2011, NRC Inspector General Hubert Bell released a report requested by Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), which found that Jaczko "controls information" that should be available to the other NRC commissioners by designating issues as administrative matters, which he has control over, rather than policy matters. As the report states, "Because he acts as the gatekeeper to determine what is a policy matter versus what is an administrative matter and controls information available to the other commissioners, they are uncertain as to whether they are adequately informed of policy matters that should be brought to their attention."
In the wake of this report, four EPW Republicans - Senators Inhofe, Barrasso, Vitter, and Sessions - asked the NRC Inspector General to investigate further the reports of Jaczko's abuses of emergency authority and his withholding of information from his fellow commissioners.
On October 13, 2011, all four of the NRC Commissioners - Commissioners Magwood, Apostolakis, Ostendorff, and Svinicki - wrote a letter to former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley voicing their concerns that Chairman Jaczko's actions were causing "serious damage" to the agency's ability to protect health and safety. The letter states that Jaczko has "intimidated and bullied" senior staff, ordered staff to withhold information meant for NRC members, and tried to "intimidate" an independent NRC committee from reviewing aspects of the NRC's analysis of the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant. The Commissioners explained that Jaczko "ignored the will" of the majority of the commission and treated his fellow commissioners with such "intemperance and disrespect" that the commission no longer functions as effectively as it should. As they wrote, "We believe that his actions and behavior are causing serious damage to this institution and are creating a chilled work environment at the NRC. We are concerned that this will adversely affect the NRC's central mission to protect the health, safety and security of the American people."
The Commission is comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats, so they came together in a bipartisan effort putting the important mission of the NRC first. As they acknowledged in a memo to Jaczko informing him of the letter, it was an "extraordinary step" but that Jaczko had left them without "viable alternatives."
On December 13, 2011, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report "A Crisis of Leadership: How the Actions of Chairman Gregory Jaczko Are Damaging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission." This report found that Chairman Jaczko and his staff tried to intimidate and influence the votes of Commissioners concerning matters related to Yucca Mountain; it also said that his aggressive behavior and intimidation of colleagues prevents constructive discussion among Commissioners and undermines NRC's deliberative process. To quote the report, Chairman Jaczko's actions often "leave NRC staff to decide between following the Chairman's orders to the dismay of the majority of the Commission or disobeying the Chairman and incurring his wrath."
As a follow up to the report, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing in which all four of the NRC Commissioners testified on December 14, 2011 and this confirmed much of what was in the report. Commissioner Magwood said that he saw Chairman Jaczko verbally abuse a female employee to the point of tears, while Commissioner Svinicki explained that all of the commissioners had been subjected to Chairman Jaczko's "continued outbursts of abusive rage." On the night before the oversight hearing in the House, an official spokesman of NRC's Office of Public Affairs, who reports directly to Chairman Jaczko, suggested to numerous reporters that they read a report by Representative Markey that denigrates the four Commissioners, attacks the agency's credibility, and erodes public confidence. When the four commissioners appeared before the Environment and Public Works Committee to testify the next day, Senator Inhofe commended them for their courageous testimony.
On May 21, 2012, Jaczko resigned from his position as Chairman of the NRC but vowed to continue serving as Chairman until a viable alternative was confirmed. On May 24, the President nominated Allison Macfarlane to be his replacement.