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
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 »
THROUGH THE ELECTION
Brazile Replacing DWS on an Interim Basis
37 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Donna Brazile, the longtime Democratic strategist and political commentator, is replacing Debbie Wasserman Schultz as head of the Democratic National Convention, at least until the November elections.

Source:
OUTLIER OR TREND?
New Polls Show Big Bounce for Trump
49 minutes ago
THE LATEST

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, Donald Trump emerged from the GOP convention "ahead of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, topping her 44% to 39% in a four-way matchup including Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%) and by three points in a two-way head-to-head, 48% to 45%. That latter finding represents a 6-point convention bounce for Trump, which are traditionally measured in two-way matchups." Meanwhile, a Morning Consult poll shows Trump leading by four points nationally. He had been down two points in the same poll a week ago.

Source:
AVOIDING CLINTON OR PREFERRING TO CAMPAIGN?
Some Dems in Tight Races Elect to Skip Convention
49 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

As the Democratic National Convention gets underway today in Philadelphia, some prominent Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate are nowhere to be found. "At least four candidates in major races are opting out, including Russ Feingold, who is challengingSen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin; Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who is taking on Sen. John McCain in Arizona; Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is running against Sen. Roy Blunt; and Catherine Cortez Masto, who is battling Rep. Joe Heck in Nevada for the seat vacated by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid." The candidates have stated their decisions aren't motivated by a desire to avoid being tied to the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Source:
PRIME TIME ADDRESS
Bloomberg to Endorse Clinton This Week
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Michael Bloomberg will endorse Hillary Clinton this week in a prime-time speech. "The news is an unexpected move from Mr. Bloomberg, who has not been a member of the Democratic Party since 2000; was elected the mayor of New York City as a Republican; and later became an independent. But it reflects Mr. Bloomberg’s increasing dismay about the rise of Donald J. Trump and a determination to see that the Republican nominee is defeated."

Source:
MOST WILL BE BOUND IN 2020
Democrats Vote Major Changes to Superdelegate System
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Democratic Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of a major shift in the superdelegate system Saturday night after a deal was reached between" the Clinton and Sanders camps. "The committee approved nearly unanimously an amendment that preserves the existing superdelegate role for elected U.S. lawmakers and governors, but will bind the remaining superdelegates — roughly two-thirds — to primary and caucus results."

Source:
×