Energy and Commerce Leaders Press Jazcko To Explain His Votes Opposing Nation's Nuclear Renaissance

April 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders are seeking answers from Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko regarding his recent votes opposing the construction and licensing of the nation's first nuclear reactors in three decades. Jaczko was the lone dissenting vote opposing the new nuclear reactors at SCANA's V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina and the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia. In both instances, Jaczko opposed the new reactors that will provide Americans with clean, reliable power and thousands of jobs. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) wrote to Chairman Jaczko today asking him to clarify his opposition to nuclear power.

In a recent National Journal story, Jaczcko suggested he opposed the new reactors because he did not believe NRC could properly enforce new post-Fukushima requirements for the new reactors. Upton, Whitfield, and Shimkus disputed this notion, writing, "It also implies that the NRC does not have the authority to impose regulatory changes after a license is issued.  Yet, the NRC issued Fukushima-related safety enhancements on March 12, 2012, to the licensees currently operating the 104 reactors here in the United States. The analogy you provided to National Journal does not comport with NRC actions and does a disservice to the public by suggesting the NRC is unable to enforce compliance with safety requirements."

Jaczcko's assertions also lie in direct contrast to the Commission majority, which stated in the Summer plant decision, "We have in place well-established regulatory processes by which to impose any new requirements or other enhancements that may be needed" Jaczcko criticized his colleagues in his dissent, stating, "We already see the inconsistency that will be inevitable under the majority approach. The Summer COLs contain a license condition for a Fukushima-related requirement that was not included in the Vogtle licenses issued only a few weeks ago. This type of happenstance cannot justify issuing COLs with differing safety standards. But this will be the outcome if we proceed with licensing without proactively imposing license conditions requiring compliance with all Fukushima recommendations." 

The members believe Jaczcko's justification is misleading, writing, "Given that the recently issued requirements apply to existing power reactor licensees including new COL holders, this appears to be a distinction without a difference, creating a false concern about the existence of differing safety standards."

"Collegial policy differences are essential to proper Commission policymaking. In your votes on these new plant licenses, you undermine the collegiality of the Commission by once again portraying yourself as the only commissioner who places public health and safety as the paramount concern. Given that all four of your colleagues felt compelled to write the White House last fall that your "˜conduct as Chairman is inconsistent with the NRC's organizational values and impairs the effective execution of the agency's mission,' this strikes us as a less than accurate portrayal of what is transpiring at the Commission. In light of this, we seek a clearer understanding of the basis for your views," they wrote.

For a full copy of the letter, click here.