EX-NRC CHAIRMAN KLEIN REBUFFS JACZKO YUCCA SHUT-DOWN ALIBI

October 29, 2010

 
Nuclear Townhall
 
In a stunning and remarkable open letter to journalists released late this afternoon, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale E. Klein has rebutted a key assertion made by his successor – current Chairman Gregory Jaczko – with regard to Jaczko’s  decision earlier this month “to terminate the ongoing NRC work on the Yucca Mountain license application.”  Noting that Jaczko has repeatedly stated that ‘the Commission approved this budgetary approach for fiscal year 2011,” Klein, who was part of the budget deliberations, stated bluntly:  “I do not agree with the Chairman’s assertion that his actions are consistent with the Commission’s FY2011 budget policy guidance.”
 
The Klein letter adds more fuel to an escalating firestorm between the increasingly embattled Jaczko and Congress spurred by the Chairman’s unilateral Yucca Mountain licensing application review stoppage.  The action has resulted in a barrage of Congressional queries, the initiation of an investigation by Jaczko’s own Inspector General,  legal filings in Federal Court, charges of political gamesmanship favoring Jaczko mentor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and an extraordinary statement by a NRC staff member in an open forum with Commissioners that agency personnel feel “betrayed.”
 
Klein added:  “The FY 2011 budget was developed during the summer and fall of 2009 and ultimately approved by the Commission in January 2010. During that time, there were only three NRC Commissioners. My fellow Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has already publicly expressed her disagreement with the Chairman’s actions. Let me make it clear, there was no intention by the Commission to approve, or even contemplate, a preemptive termination of the high-level waste (HLW) program.  Our approach and guidance to agency staff was to sustain ongoing work while maintaining flexibility in the face of the Office of Management and Budget’s directions concerning the HLW program.”
 
Klein charged that “it is not appropriate for Chairman Jazcko to continue to rationalize his actions as being consistent with the Commission’s FY 2011 budget guidance. Doing so implies that I and Commissioner Svinicki are complicit in authorizing his actions, and that is clearly not the case.”
 
According to Klein, the continuing resolution budget guidance for the agency’s Yucca Mountain review “should have been handled as a Commission policy matter, with the full participation of the Commission and, most certainly, in consultation with Congress.
 
“Lastly, having served as Chairman, I believe I have a reasonable understanding of the legal authority of the Chairman’s office to address administrative matters such as budget issues. I would not consider the closeout of the HLW application technical review to be a simple reassignment of personnel or routine reallocation of resources. Rather, the actions taken are the implementation of a major national policy decision that has not been acted on by the Commission or authorized by Congress,” Klein said.
 
The full text of the Klein letter follows:
 
 
 
Open Letter to Journalists—
 
As a former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I wish to address a particular point raised by the current Chairman, Gregory Jaczko, in the controversy surrounding his decision to terminate the ongoing NRC work on the Yucca Mountain license application. Chairman Jaczko has repeatedly stated that “the Commission approved this budgetary approach for fiscal year 2011”. I served as a member of the Commission during the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget deliberations and was intimately involved in establishing the budget policy referred to by Chairman Jaczko. I do not agree with the Chairman’s assertion that his actions are consistent with the Commission’s FY 2011 budget policy guidance.
 
The FY 2011 budget was developed during the summer and fall of 2009 and ultimately approved by the Commission in January 2010. During that time, there were only three NRC Commissioners. My fellow Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has already publicly expressed her disagreement with the Chairman’s actions. Let me make it clear, there was no intention by the Commission to approve, or even contemplate, a preemptive termination of the high-level waste (HLW) program.  Our approach and guidance to agency staff was to sustain ongoing work while maintaining flexibility in the face of the Office of Management and Budget’s directions concerning the HLW program.
 
In December 2009, the HLW program was in flux. It was not known if the Department of Energy would request a withdrawal or suspension of the Yucca Mountain license application, the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future had not been formed, and the Congress had not engaged on how affected agencies would address their obligations under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. While I may have anticipated some of the unfolding events, I could not have predicted all that has clouded this contentious issue. Clearly the conditions and assumptions that the Commission relied upon in developing our FY 2011 budget approach changed over time, and a recalibration would have been appropriate.
 
Since the majority of current commissioners chose not to reconsider the budget guidance, the guidance which I helped to create remains in force. It is not appropriate for Chairman Jazcko to continue to rationalize his actions as being consistent with the Commission’s FY 2011 budget guidance. Doing so implies that I and Commissioner Svinicki are complicit in authorizing his actions, and that is clearly not the case. Having served as NRC Chairman during several budget cycles, I believe that the continuing resolution budget guidance for the HLW program should have been handled as a Commission policy matter, with the full participation of the Commission and, most certainly, in consultation with Congress.
 
Lastly, having served as Chairman, I believe I have a reasonable understanding of the legal authority of the Chairman’s office to address administrative matters such as budget issues. I would not consider the closeout of the HLW application technical review to be a simple reassignment of personnel or routine reallocation of resources. Rather, the actions taken are the implementation of a major national policy decision that has not been acted on by the Commission or authorized by Congress.
Dale E. Klein, PhD.
Former Chairman,
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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  • Eric

    Thank you Dr Klein for illuminating this as it is very helpful for those who are trying to understand what is going on at the NRC. You served the Commission with dignity and integrity.

    I can’t ever recall a Commissioner coming under such an attack. It appears that Jaczko is corrupt and should resign.

  • Eric

    Thank you Dr Klein for illuminating this as it is very helpful for those who are trying to understand what is going on at the NRC. You served the Commission with dignity and integrity.

    I can’t ever recall a Commissioner coming under such an attack. It appears that Jaczko is corrupt and should resign.

  • Eric

    Thank you Dr Klein for illuminating this as it is very helpful for those who are trying to understand what is going on at the NRC. You served the Commission with dignity and integrity.

    I can’t ever recall a Commissioner coming under such an attack. It appears that Jaczko is corrupt and should resign.