NRC Denies Senator’s Claim of Obstruction in Nuclear Reactor Investigation

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane delivers a speech at the Fukushima Ministerial Conference in Japan last year. Macfarlane is denying charges from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that the commission is withholding requested information.
National Journal
Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Douglas P. Guarino, Global Security Newswire
Nov. 21, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­lat­ory Com­mis­sion Chair­wo­man Al­lis­on Mac­far­lane is deny­ing claims that her or­gan­iz­a­tion is with­hold­ing in­form­a­tion re­lated to a now-de­funct nuc­le­ar power plant that law­makers and watch­dog groups feared was a se­cur­ity risk.

At the on­set of an over­sight hear­ing on Cap­it­ol Hill on Thursday, Sen­at­or Bar­bara Box­er (D-Cal­if.) said that NRC per­son­nel this week at­temp­ted to re­strict her staff’s ac­cess to re­cords per­tain­ing to the San Ono­fre nuc­le­ar power plant in her home state.

The plant’s op­er­at­or, South­ern Cali­for­nia Edis­on, an­nounced it would close the fa­cil­ity earli­er this year after Box­er raised con­cerns about dam­aged steam gen­er­at­ors that act­iv­ists said made the site vul­ner­able to sab­ot­age.

Box­er, who chairs the Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee, said NRC of­fi­cials “even told [her] staff that they could be searched to en­sure they had not taken any doc­u­ments” in the course of do­ing work re­lated to the sen­at­or’s San Ono­fre in­vest­ig­a­tion earli­er this week.

Ac­cord­ing to Box­er, the in­cid­ent was an out­growth of a “uni­lat­er­al and dis­turb­ing change” that the com­mis­sion made re­cently to “its policies on provid­ing in­form­a­tion to Con­gress.” The change, the law­maker said, “al­lows the NRC to broadly deny in­form­a­tion to in­di­vidu­al mem­bers of Con­gress.”

The five pres­id­en­tially ap­poin­ted com­mis­sion­ers did not get an op­por­tun­ity dur­ing Thursday’s hear­ing to re­spond to Box­er’s charges, as the ses­sion ab­ruptly ad­journed due to un­re­lated ac­tion on the Sen­ate floor.

Mac­far­lane denied the claims in a brief ex­change with re­port­ers after the hear­ing, however.

“We would nev­er say such a thing,” Mac­far­lane said in ref­er­ence to Box­er’s claims that NRC per­son­nel threatened to search the sen­at­or’s staff. The NRC chair­wo­man at­trib­uted the ac­cus­a­tions to a “gen­er­al mis­un­der­stand­ing” re­gard­ing the com­mis­sion’s new policy for provid­ing in­form­a­tion to Con­gress.

Mac­far­lane sug­ges­ted that the only as­pect of the new policy worth not­ing was that mem­bers of Cap­it­ol Hill com­mit­tees with NRC over­sight au­thor­ity must now dir­ect re­quests for in­form­a­tion through either the con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee chair or its top-rank­ing minor­ity mem­ber.

She said a Justice De­part­ment re­view of the policy found it to be among the least re­strict­ive across the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. That would dir­ectly con­tra­dict a claim made by Box­er, who said an NRC poll of fed­er­al agen­cies de­term­ined that the policy was more re­strict­ive than that of any oth­er agency.

The NRC chair­wo­man de­clined to dis­cuss the nature of the doc­u­ments that the Cali­for­nia sen­at­or had sought re­l­at­ive to the San Ono­fre plant.

Box­er in­dic­ated dur­ing the hear­ing that she would con­tin­ue to pur­sue the is­sue.

“Let me be clear: No form of agency in­tim­id­a­tion or ob­struc­tion will be tol­er­ated in this com­mit­tee’s in­vest­ig­a­tion or its con­sti­tu­tion­al over­sight re­spons­ib­il­it­ies,” she said.

What We're Following See More »
ENOUGH SUPPORT TO PASS?
Senators Reach Bipartisan ACA Deal
33 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"Sen. Lamar Alexander says he and Sen. Patty Murray have reached a deal to fund the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing subsidies in exchange for giving states more regulatory flexibility with the law." Axios is watching to see if the deal will gather support.

Source:
INDEX UP MORE THAN 20% SINCE ELECTION
Dow Jones Hits 23,000 Threshold
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS
THE QUESTION
How Much Did George Soros Transfer to His Philanthropy?
3 hours ago
THE ANSWER

$18 billion. Open Society Foundations "has vaulted to the top ranks of philanthropic organizations, appearing to become the second largest in the U.S. by assets after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based on 2014 figures from the National Philanthropic Trust."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Much Has Trump’s Fortune Fallen in One Year?
4 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About $600 million, according to a Forbes analysis. His free cash is down by $100 million.

Source:
WROTE LAW THAT WEAKENED OPIOID OVERSIGHT
Trump: Marino Withdrawing Nomination for Drug Czar
5 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login