FORMER DOE YUCCA DEPUTY DIRECTOR DERIDES JACZKO PR EFFORT AS “ALICE-IN-WONDERLAND QUALITY”: CALLS IT “AT BEST DISINGENUOUS AND AT WORST BORDERS ON PARTISAN ADVOCACY”

 

In a letter to the editor made available independently to Nuclear Townhall, former U.S. Department of Energy official Lake Barrett – commenting on a letter widely distributed by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko to news media outlets in defense of his decision to shut-down the agency’s Yucca Mountain license application review – says “the chairman’s letter has an Alice-in-Wonderland quality to it in which facts are turned upside down and the truth disassembled, requiring any knowledgeable reader to suspend total disbelief.”  Barrett served as Deputy Director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management over two decades.

“The inconvenient truth of the matter is that the chairman is stone-walling on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project by sidestepping the commission policy-making process he is charged with upholding. By failing to bring to an orderly closure a timely decision to uphold or reverse the unanimous decision of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) finding that the DOE lacks the authority to withdraw the Yucca license application under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, he is not faithfully executing nor abiding by the oath he swore when he took office,” Barrett said.
 
Barrett called on Jaczko to release the NRC general counsel’s memorandum “sanctifying” the chairman’s actions.  “The reality is that the chairman appears to be wrapped up in the Obama administration’s backdoor attempt to shut down Yucca Mountain through a twisted interpretation of the budgetary process rather than to risk an up-or-down vote in Congress to terminate the project. Chairman Jazcko’s failure to bring a timely up-or-down vote on the ASLB decision appears to mimic the administration’s approach to Congress on the matter,” he added.
 
Barrett concluded:  “The American people deserve better than this. The NRC chairman should understand that he fools no one with his sanctimonious good government and preservation of resources arguments. Rather he should schedule an immediate vote on the ASLB decision and at the same time order the staff to publish their review work. Nothing less is good government.”
 
 
The complete text of the Barrett letter is below.
 
 
 
 
To The Editor:
 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko’s letter to the editor appears to be nothing more than a desperate public relations effort and as such is at best disingenuous and at worst borders on partisan advocacy.
 
The chairman’s letter has an Alice-in-Wonderland quality to it in which facts are turned upside down and the truth disassembled, requiring any knowledgeable reader to suspend total disbelief.
 
The inconvenient truth of the matter is that the chairman is stone-walling on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project by sidestepping the commission policy-making process he is charged with upholding. By failing to bring to an orderly closure a timely decision to uphold or reverse the unanimous decision of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) finding that the DOE lacks the authority to withdraw the Yucca license application under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as amended, he is not faithfully executing nor abiding by the oath he swore when he took office.
 
Moreover, when in the name of good government does it make any sense to suppress the publication of the results of the NRC staff review of the Yucca Mountain license application? Rather, it would seem that in the name of good government, transparency and openness and scientific integrity, the public’s interest would be best served by publishing the results of the NRC staff technical review. Chairman Jaczko’s actions are far from transparent.
 
As far as preservation of resources are concerned, U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers have paid over $10 billion for the development and characterization of the Yucca Mountain site so NRC can determine whether the project can be licensed. So why in the name of good government would it not be beneficial to publish the results of the NRC staff’s technical analysis of the Yucca Mountain site?
 
The chairman’s statement that the commission approved "this budgetary approach for fiscal year 2011 almost a year ago" begs the question as to whether the commission is just plain clairvoyant and completely foresaw all of the circumstances of today surrounding this issue and/or whether the other commissioners were consulted at all prior to issuing the direction to the NRC staff to wrap things up. Why won’t the chairman publicly release the NRC general counsel’s memorandum sanctifying the chairman’s actions? One would think the other commissioners would have a right to know at the very least.
 
The reality is that the chairman appears to be wrapped up in the Obama administration’s backdoor attempt to shut down Yucca Mountain through a twisted interpretation of the budgetary process rather than to risk an up-or-down vote in Congress to terminate the project. Chairman Jazcko’s failure to bring a timely up-or-down vote on the ASLB decision appears to mimic the administration’s approach to Congress on the matter.
 
At the heart of it, this is the issue presently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit-whether this administration or any other can simply waive the requirements of duly enacted laws of Congress by claiming it has the prerogative of reordering policies through the budgetary process.
 
As a matter of practice, the court of appeals has deferred to the commission for the moment so as to allow time for the commission to make a timely agency decision on the merits in considering the ASLB decision. It would seem the court has been rewarded by the agency’s chairman engaging in delaying tactics. So much so that it has become a legitimate question as to whether the chairman ever intends to bring an up-or-down vote on the ASLB decision or simply intends to fall back and claim the whole matter has been mooted through his interpretation of the budget process.
 
The American people deserve better than this. The NRC chairman should understand that he fools no one with his sanctimonious good government and preservation of resources arguments. Rather he should schedule an immediate vote on the ASLB decision and at the same time order the staff to publish their review work.
 
Nothing less is good government.
 
 
Lake Barrett
 
Former Deputy Director
 
U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management

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