NRC head Gregory Jaczko resigns amid criticism

By Dorothy Davis

After three tumultuous years as the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Chairman Gregory Jaczko announced on Monday his intent to retire as soon as his replacement can be chosen and confirmed.

“After nearly eight years on the commission, I am announcing my resignation as chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, effective upon the confirmation of my successor. My responsibility and commitment to safety will continue to be my paramount priority after I leave the commission and until my successor is confirmed," Jaczko said in a statement. 

The move comes as the U.S. and the rest of the world faces significant questions about how to safely utilize nuclear power, ultimately an issue that divided Jaczko from the rest of the Commission. 

After starting his term as chairman with the abrupt ending of the radioactive waste disposal facility in Yucca Mountain, Jaczko went on to largely define the agency's reaction to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex in Japan. In February the NRC approved the design of the first new nuclear power reactors in the country in more than three decades, a decision that Jaczko objected to on safety grounds. 

Jaczko’s time as chairman also suffered other criticisms, including complaints that he bullied female employees and other commissioners. Jaczko has already defended himself before Congress, but a second report on the subject from the NRC's inspector general is expected to be released in the following weeks. 

However, in a phone interview with Bloomberg Jaczko said his decision to end his term early was not influenced by recent disputes with the other commissioners.

"Some of those instances of the past six months or so really had nothing to do with my decision," Jaczko told Bloomberg.

The NRC announced Tuesday that Jaczko will hold a news conference Wednesday, May 23, in Charlotte, N.C., following his speech to the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual Nuclear Energy Assembly.

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