Halt nuclear panel meltdown
Arrogant, abusive, volatile and arbitrary in his use of authority -- those are harsh words. And Gregory Jaczko has been described as such and worse by the people who have worked with and for him at the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The chairman of the NRC has been excoriated by scientists who have seen years of research effectively discarded as Mr. Jaczko wantonly terminated the national nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
He has been castigated by congressmen who support a rational system for nuclear waste disposal -- as mandated by Congress and four previous administrations.
The NRC inspector general concluded that Mr. Jaczko has manipulated policy by withholding information from his fellow commissioners. The IG described Mr. Jaczko's actions as unprofessional and "wrong."
Mr. Jaczko's four colleagues on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently joined the chorus of boos in a letter to the White House. Two of those members are Republicans, and two are Democrats. By their mutual criticism of Mr. Jaczko, the commissioners have achieved a rare bipartisanship in politically divided Washington.
In testimony before a House oversight committee last month, Commissioner Kristine Svinicki cited "the chairman's continued outbursts of abusive rage" aimed at both staff and members of the NRC.
Commissioner William D. Magwood IV told the House committee that Mr. Jaczko had, to his knowledge, bullied at least three female staffers, one with what he described as a "raging verbal assault."
Ms. Svinicki, a nuclear scientist, is a Republican appointee. Mr. Magwood, formerly the nation's senior nuclear technology official at the Department of Energy, is a Democratic appointee.
Simply put, Mr. Jaczko is temperamentally and ethically unsuited to continue serving as the head of the nation's nuclear policy-making body. Nevertheless, he retains the confidence of the White House, and apparently will retain his chairmanship of the NRC.
White House Chief of Staff William Daley blandly brushed aside the criticism as organizational in nature -- the NRC chairman has broader powers than the other four members of the commission. He said Mr. Jaczko will do a better job communicating with his colleagues in the future.
The administration's continued support of Mr. Jaczko shouldn't be a surprise. He has served ably as President Barack Obama's henchman on the Yucca Mountain project, effectively destroying decades of work on the disposal site, on which $15 billion has been spent.
The termination of the project served as a political favor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has long opposed it. Mr. Jaczko, incidentally, formerly served as an aide to Sen. Reid.
Why should the nation care about Mr. Jaczko's maladministration of the NRC?
First and foremost is his termination of the Yucca project.
Until the federal government fulfills its responsibility to complete a secure, central disposal site, nuclear waste will continue to pile up in casks at 104 commercial nuclear reactor sites around the nation. That is a potential security problem that a central repository in the interior of a remote mountain would have resolved.
Meanwhile, South Carolina's Savannah River Site will serve as the nation's primary disposal site for nuclear defense waste. It's not a role envisioned for SRS, which was built for weapons production. South Carolina, Aiken County and Washington state have joined in a legal challenge to the Yucca Mountain decision.
Mr. Jaczko has declared himself "mortified" over the sweeping criticism from his colleagues. But almost in the same breath, he maintained that he'd done nothing wrong.
If this administration had any sense of propriety, Mr. Jaczko would be more than mortified.
He'd be unemployed.