Kimberly Strassel’s Wall Street Journal Potomac Watch column on “Obama’s nuclear politics” did not get anything like the attention it deserves. Strassel tells the story of Obama-appointed NRC chairman Gregory Jaczo’s high-handed approach to to kill plans–approved by Congress–to make Nevada’s Yucca Mountain the repository for spent nuclear fuel. A funny thing happened on the way to killing the Yucca Mountain repository.
The issue was thrown to a panel of NRC administrative judges. Strassel reports that, much to the administration’s frustration, they ruled unanimously in June of last year that the Energy Department lacked the authority to “singlehandedly derail” a policy that had been directed by Congress. “Enter the brass knuckles,” writes Strassel, presumably from stage left.
Strassel also has a note on the characteristic transparency (not) of the Obama administration’s approach:
NRC staff have for years been working on a critical Yucca safety report, which includes conclusions on whether Yucca can safely hold radioactive waste for up to a million years. Environmentalists have used the million-year unknown as their main argument against the site, and the findings are crucial.
The documents are finished, yet Mr. Jaczko has used every means to keep them secret. When the agency finally answered a Freedom of Information request to release the documents, it blacked out all the staff’s findings and conclusions on long-term safety.
And that’s not all. There is also this:
Only this week, the NRC’s inspector general finished an investigation into the chairman’s actions. Mr. Jaczko claims the report vindicates him (though he refuses to release the report). House Energy and Commerce Republicans have their own copy (which they intend to release), and they’ll be telling a starkly different story come Tuesday, when they hold a hearing on the report’s gory details.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has posted a press release on today’s hearing. The NRC Inspector General’s report is accessible here. The National Journal article on the Inspector General’s report is here. The story has even found its way into the New York Times.
We’ll have to check back later, but you may want to check out Strassel’s column in the meantime.