Nuclear Regulator Resigns Under Industry Pressure

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/talkradionews/5954788934/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Talk Radio News</a>/Flickr

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko resigned on Monday, ending what had been months of fighting both over and within the panel charged with regulating the US nuclear industry.

“After an incredibly productive three years as Chairman, I have decided this is the appropriate time to continue my efforts to ensure public safety in a different forum,” he said in a statement. “This is the right time to pass along the public safety torch to a new chairman who will keep a strong focus on carrying out the vital mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

Jaczko had served on the commission for nearly 8 years, and Obama tapped him to serve as its chairman in May 2009. He’d been under fire from the nuclear industry, as well as its allies in Congress and on commission. In the past years, battles over building a waste repository at Yucca Mountain and safety changes in response to the Fukushima disaster in Japan had put pressure on Jaczko, a reform-minded regulator who had worked for Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. Harry Reid before joining the NRC, to resign.

Jaczko’s main opponent on the panel was William Magwood, an Obama appointee and nuclear industry insider who had waged a campaign to push the chairman out. Magwood had previously worked for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, a major provider of nuclear fuel, technology, plant design, and equipment, and had a record of championing expansion of the industry. He and the three other more industry-sympathetic commissioners accused Jaczko of mismanaging the commission. They expressed “grave concerns” about his leadership in a letter to the White House, and said he “intimidated and bullied” NRC staff.

But critics of the nuclear industry were fans of the chairman. “Jaczko did all he could to stand up to the political and economic influence of the nuclear industry and set commonsense reforms to make the industry safer post-Fukushima,” said Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s energy program in a statement. “But it wasn’t enough. The other commissioners didn’t want to be so tough on industry.”

The White House will need to appoint a new chairman to replace Jaczko.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.