Senate Republicans Pressure WH, Reid on NRC Appointment

Posted April 19, 2012 at 1:41pm

Senate Republicans today called on Senate Democrats to quickly reconfirm Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after the White House signaled that it would renominate her.

“We understand that the White House may be in the process of sending her nomination up and we all agree that that is certainly a good thing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at a press conference.

White House officials confirmed today that the President Barack Obama plans to send up her renomination in the near future.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who opposes her for being to friendly toward the nuclear industry, said Congress would hold hearings and decide whether she deserves another term. Her current term ends in June.

“That is why we have a Congress, and there will be hearings,” Reid said.

He noted that Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who is running against Heller for his Senate seat, also have raised concerns about Svinicki. He added that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the NRC, also raised issues about Svinicki.

McConnell and other Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), suggested that the reason for Reid’s opposition has more to do with allegations from Svinicki and the four other commissioners on the bipartisan agency that NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has an abusive and bullying management style. Jaczko is a former Reid staffer, and Reid was instrumental in getting then-President George W. Bush to appoint him to the NRC.

“The only thing that one can conclude is that this nomination is being held up because Ms. Svinicki confronted the chairman over his abusive behavior,” McConnell said.

Murkowski said four years ago when Svinicki was first nominated that there were no issues raised about her.

“What has changed in terms of her ability to lead,” Murkowski asked. “The only thing that has changed is she had to courage to step forward and blow the whistle on the chairman, and the chairman happens to be a good friend of Sen. Reid.”

Reid championed Jaczko’s nomination to the commission, which has played a significant role in halting the Yucca Mountain project — a proposed nuclear waste dump about 90 miles from Las Vegas that Reid has spent the better part of his career trying to kill.

For more than a year, the NRC has been considering an Energy Department request to close the site, and Jaczko has been accused of delaying that decision. His critics say that is because the commission may decide to keep the partially built facility open.

At the same time, Obama has attempted to eliminate funding for the Yucca Mountain project since 2010, and the Government Accountability Office has issued a report on alternative uses for the site.