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Jaczko Keeps NRC in the Dark on Emergency Powers

Gregory Jaczko testifies in today's EPW "Oversight Hearing: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Preliminary Results of the Nuclear Safety Review in the United States following the Emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in Japan."    



Senator John Barrasso:

Now to get to Senator Inhofe's questions. Madam Chairman, if I run out of time I'd like to submit the others for the record.

Senator Barbara Boxer:

Of course.

Sen. Barasso:

The Energy Reorganization Act, that the chairman is exercising his executive administrative functions, it says quote, "Shall be governed by general policies of the commission. The commission through its internal commission procedures sets forth procedures for the chairman to follow in exercising the emergency authority under section three of the reorganization plan" and I have that section here.  And there's been some concerns because you have used your emergency authority. I read it, it says you should have it for a limited period of time-any chairman should have it for a limited period of time-and it requires additional reporting to the other members. So, I would ask the other members who are sitting here if you could briefly tell me: when did the chairman inform you that he ceased using his emergency powers under section three?  Did that happen?

Kristine Svinicki:

Yeah, I received no such notification.

George Apostolakis:

I did not either.

William Magwood:

I received no notification.

William Ostendorff:

I have not received any notification.

Sen. Barrasso:

Because the chairman is required in both in statue and commission procedures to provide a complete and timely report to the commission on actions taken while exercising the authority. So you have not yet received a report is sounds like, if you haven't gotten notification. Mister Chairman, when you testified before this committee back in April-these are Senator Inhofe's questions-when you testified back in April you stated that, quote, " Most  of the activities that you [I] have engaged in as part of this response have been in my normal supervisory authorities over the staff at the agency and my communication responsibilities". Senator Inhofe asked for a full account of the actions that you took outside of your normal authority, because you had said, "most of the activities". So will you commit to provide a report to this committee, detailing the actions during your exercise of emergency authority?

Gregory Jaczko:

Of course.

Sen. Barrasso:

Thank you. Mister Chairman, also: in your testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in May, you stated that you were not quote, "required to make a formal declaration of your decision to use emergency authority under section three-A of the reorganization plan. To go on to-I can read the whole plan but in the interest of time-why did you choose to keep secret the fact that you were transferring to yourself functions vested in the commission?


The commission was fully aware that I was exercising my emergency authorities. I did not keep that secret. I did not make a formal declaration because that is not a part of the process. The commission was briefed three times a day or their staff was briefed three times a day during the accident about all the actions that were being taken. They were provided with situational reports that were on the outset of the incident, produced at least three times a day. I spoke with them at least once a day, on generally as much as time allowed in the initial part of the incident. So there was a tremendous amount of communication to my colleagues. They were fully aware of all the decisions that were being taken by the agency and then ultimately by me and my role as chairman.

Sen. Barrasso:

I'd like to ask each of the four other commissioners, starting with you. When did you first learn that the chairman had taken on emergency powers?


I did not receive any declaration, as the chairman has stated. He made no declaration. My understanding is that NRC's office of congressional affairs informed this committee of the exercise of emergency powers and I believe I learned of it then.

Sen. Barrasso:

Have you been specifically informed by the commissioner that he has taken over?


No, I was not.


Just echoing commissioner Svinicki, I first heard about it when we heard that the office of congressional affairs had notified this committee. That was the first time I heard it.


Senator, I did have a discussion with the chairman on March 31st, in which I understood at that point in time that it appeared to me that he was exercising emergency powers, though there had not been a formal statement to that effect.

Sen. Barrasso:

Mister Chairman, final question from Senator Inhofe. He sent you a letter outlining his concerns regarding your exercise of emergency authority, asked you to provide any legal analysis that supports your transfer of commission functions to yourself. He said you have not provided one yet. Are we to conclude that you chose to exercise the authorities without seeking any legal counsel? And perhaps you want to seek legal counsel in response to Senator Inhofe.


No, that is incorrect. I sought legal counsel. There is no question about my authority in this case and I have plenty of documentation from the general counsel to support that.

Sen Barrasso:

Thank you Mister Chairman, thank you Madam Chairman.

Sen. Boxer:

I'm going to place in the record a document backing up what Chairman Jaczko has stated. There is no requirement for an emergency declaration at all. And we will put the actual language into the record, because this kind of questioning is, to me, extraordinary, asking you if you did something that you don't have to do and having every commissioner saying, "no, he didn't do it." Yeah, you didn't have to. It's just mind-boggling around here.