There’s a cynical saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” But is the reverse equally plausible? Consider the return of Gregory Jaczko to the federal fold.
In 2012 Mr. Jaczko left the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where he served as chairman, under heavy criticism from his colleagues and staff. There were widespread complaints from staff about his objectionable management style, and from his fellow board members, who said he kept them out of the loop.
He certainly did so in regard to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, and in the worst way. He managed to get the project shut down, despite 30 years of planning and work costing some $20 billion. In August, a federal appeals court ordered the NRC to restart the process on Yucca, with one judge citing Mr. Jaczko’s central role in its unwarranted closure.
Nevertheless, there is still a place in the federal government for someone with Mr. Jaczko’s powerful connections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whom Mr. Jaczko served both as a Senate staff member and in his work as chairman of the NRC, has appointed him a member of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. The panel is charged with making recommendations on behalf of improved operations at the Department of Energy’s weapons facilities.
Those include the Savannah River Site, where much of the nation’s defense waste is stored. So Mr. Jaczko’s continued involvement in nuclear issues should be of interest to South Carolina, and particularly Aiken County. Both were forced to sue the NRC because of Mr. Jaczko’s unilateral actions to terminate the Yucca project. Without Yucca, SRS will continue to serve as a waste site for massive quantities of high-level waste. And unlike Yucca, SRS wasn’t built for the task.
In view of his mischief-making at the NRC, Mr. Jaczko’s continued involvement in nuclear policy-making should be subject to the closest scrutiny.
As he carried out his campaign against Yucca Mountain, Mr. Jaczko had the support of Sen. Reid and the administration. Yucca is located in Mr. Reid’s home state of Nevada, and he has fought the project for decades. But closure requires congressional and NRC support, neither of which were obtained before Mr. Jaczko pulled the plug. Indeed, Congress has backed the project since its inception — a point that wasn’t lost on the appeals court.
As Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote, “Although the Commission had a duty to act on the application and the means to fulfill that duty, former Chairman Gregory Jaczko orchestrated a systematic campaign of noncompliance. Jaczko unilaterally ordered Commission staff to terminate the review process in October 2010; instructed staff to remove key findings from reports evaluating the Yucca Mountain site; and ignored the will of his fellow Commissioners.”
That’s hardly a recommendation for a new federal role in the nuclear realm for the ex-chairman. But apparently it is not an impediment when you have friends in high places.
With an influential patron like Sen. Reid, you just can’t go wrong.