WASHINGTON (AP) - The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was unprofessional and "wrong" as he repeatedly misled fellow commissioners about his efforts to stop work on a disputed dump for high-level radioactive waste, an agency watchdog said Tuesday.
Inspector General Hubert T. Bell told Congress that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko manipulated the panel's four other commissioners by selectively withholding information on a crucial safety review of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. Jaczko's actions allowed him to shut down the review last year without a vote of the full commission.
Bell told members of the House and Energy Commerce Committee that Jaczko's conduct was not criminal but, "It's not an upfront way to do business."
Several GOP lawmakers said Jaczko appears to have violated a federal law requiring the NRC chair to keep fellow commissioners "fully and currently informed" about important matters before the commission.
Pressed by Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and other Republicans, Bell said Jaczko did not keep NRC members fully informed. When asked if that was illegal, Bell said only, "It's wrong."
Joseph McMillan, assistant inspector general for investigations, went further, telling Murphy: "One could draw that conclusion, that (Jaczko's conduct) is opposite the intent of that statute, yes."
Bell's office submitted a 46-page report last week, indicating that Jaczko intimidated staff members who disagreed with him and withheld information from NRC members in an effort to stop review of the Yucca Mountain project. The report said Jaczko often lost his temper with NRC commissioners and staff members.
Jaczko has acknowledged losing his temper, but he has said the report's findings confirm that his actions were lawful and within his authority as chairman.