Report: Nuclear safety chief bullied workers

WASHINGTON — An internal investigation has concluded that the departing chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission engaged in bullying and intimidation, creating a tense working environment at the agency.

A report Tuesday by the NRC’s inspector general found at least 15 instances when Chairman Gregory Jaczko acted in a way that senior employees or fellow commissioners found intimidating or bullying.

The report also said Jackzo’s testimony before House and Senate committees in December was “inconsistent” with testimony provided to the inspector general by senior NRC officials. The committees were investigating Jaczko’s behavior.

The report upheld Jaczko’s declaration last year that Japan’s nuclear crisis constituted an emergency for the United States.

A summary of the report was obtained by The Associated Press.

Jaczko, who announced his resignation in May, said in a statement Tuesday that the report vindicated his actions as chairman.

“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,” Jaczko said. “The report raises nothing new of substance.”

Jaczko, 41, a Democrat, has led the nuclear safety agency for three years. He pushed for sweeping safety reforms but came under fire for an unyielding management style that some said veered into bullying.

In an extraordinary public rebuke, four fellow commissioners sat next to Jaczko in December and told Congress they had “grave concerns” about Jaczko’s actions. The four commissioners — two Democrats and two Republicans — said women at the agency felt especially threatened.

No disciplinary action was taken against Jaczko, who denied the allegations.

Jaczko, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., led a strong response to the nuclear disaster in Japan and was a favorite of industry watchdogs, who called his emphasis on safety a refreshing change from previous agency chiefs who were close to the nuclear industry or who came from it.

But scientists, fellow commissioners and many rank-and-file staffers said Jaczko had created a chilled working environment at the NRC, which oversees safety at the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors.

Jaczko was the agency’s public face during its response last year to an earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. He also took responsibility for recommending that U.S. citizens living in Japan move out of an area larger than what U.S. communities near nuclear facilities prepare for, a decision that lawmakers and the NRC’s advisory board questioned.

Jaczko has been a member of the NRC since 2005 and was named by President Barack Obama to lead the independent agency in 2009. Since then, he has made a series of decisions to delay or halt work on a proposed nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, a project Obama had made a campaign promise to kill. Reid is the project’s leading opponent in Congress.

Obama last month named geologist Allison Macfarlane to replace Jaczko. A Senate confirmation vote on her nomination is expected this week.

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