Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, announced his resignation this week, but he is still making pointed comments about the need to strengthen regulations to ensure nuclear power plants are safer.
“I think the Fukushima event was a wake-up call, hopefully for everyone,” Jaczko said in a news conference, referring to the earthquake- and tsunami-triggered nuclear plant accident in Japan on March 11, 2011,
“I think there were people throughout this industry who had come to the belief that an accident of that magnitude simply was never going to happen, that we had really come to the point at which we’d eliminated that,” Jaczko said. “I’ve always tried to do my job without making that assumption.”
In one of his most contentious moves, Jaczko canceled the review of a plan to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a federal site in Nevada. Under the plan, highly radioactive waste would be transported from across the country to the site, buried underground to protect people and the environment while the radioactivity died down over many thousands of years.
In his actions on Yucca Mountain and his strong response to the Fukushima disaster, Jaczko has come under fire for alleged aggressive behavior and an abrasive management style. The complaints have led to two internal investigations.
George W. Bush nominated Jaczko to be one of the NRC’s five commissioners; he has served on the commission since 2005 and as chairman since 2009.
Jaczko’s resignation is contingent on a new chairman being named and confirmed by Congress, he said at the news conference.
The White House said on May 21 that it would nominate his replacement “soon.” Jackzo’s term is due to end in June 2013.