On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform followed the trail blazed by my Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy into Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko’s mismanagement of the NRC.
Chairman Jaczko’s history of intimidation and bullying of his non-political, senior, career staff at the commission, as well his blatant disregard for his fellow commissioners, is well documented. In fact, things have become so bad that Jaczko’s four colleagues on the commission (two Democrats and two Republicans) have all met with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and sent a letter to the White House seeking relief from Jaczko’s dictatorial chairmanship.
While at the helm of this supposedly independent, scientific commission, Chairman Jaczko has consistently put the politics of his former employers (Senate Majority Leader Reid and Congressman Ed Markey) ahead of science. This cronyism is no more apparent than in the case of the NRC’s responsibility to secure high-level nuclear waste.
With the NRC split on the issue, the Department of Energy has no legal standing to withdraw the licensing application for Yucca Mountain — the $14.5 billion investment to permanently secure high-level waste at a remote location in Nevada. By withholding crucial information from his colleagues and delaying this review process, Chairman Jaczko is effectively defying federal law as laid out in the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
Yucca Mountain is critical to America’s nuclear energy future as well as to our legacy of atomic weapons development. Chairman Jaczko’s inaction leaves high-level nuclear waste temporarily stored at 131 sites in 39 states rather than permanently secured in a single, geological repository.
These sites include the decommissioned Zion Nuclear Power Station, which is on the shores of Lake Michigan, 40 miles from downtown Chicago; the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on Southern California’s Pacific coast; and the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in Washington State, where nuclear waste is known to be leaking from a temporary storage container. The failure of the federal government to clean up and secure high-level nuclear waste is a direct result of Chairman Jaczko’s political agenda and failed leadership at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican from Illinois, is the chairman of the Environment and Economy Subcommittee.