Groups urge NRC regulator to resign, allege conflict of interest

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Commissioner William Magwood with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is being urged by 34 groups to immediately resign.

The groups – including Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – submitted a letter to Magwood and other Commissioners saying that Magwood “fatally compromised” his role as an independent safety regulator by not recusing himself from safety decisions while negotiating for and accepting the role as Director-General with the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). Magwood announced he would leave the NRC for the NEA position in Paris in September.

NEA’s charter promotes the use of nuclear energy and the economic interests of its member governments, including those that own or sponsor U.S. nuclear licensees and applicants. The groups said in the letter that Magwood’s negotiation for and acceptance of the position with the NEA while also serving as a regulator with the NRC is “antithetical to the basic principles of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 that safety, not economics, must be the NRC’s paramount consideration and that promotional policies shall be left to the U.S. Department of Energy.”

The letter also demands that Magwood retroactively recuse himself from any safety decisions he participated in after submitting an application to the NEA approximately nine months ago. In that time period, the groups allege that Magwood voted against further research by the NRC technical staff on two post-Fukushima issues: the adequacy of the scope of NRC’s safety regulations and whether the NRC should order the expedited transfer of spent fuel from high-density storage pools into dry storage. The research could have led to additional costly safety requirements on licensees, which would have conflicted with NEA’s interests in minimizing reactor costs.

NRC Public Affairs Officer Neil Sheehan said the commission is not commenting on the letter at this time.

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