On June 14, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing to question the Inspector General of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about how the federal agency handled the request to end development of Yucca Mountain as the country’s main high-level radioactive waste depository.

Under the direction of the Obama administration, the Department of Energy requested the NRC to withdraw its application to develop Yucca Mountain, but was denied in June, 2010. The NRC has not yet finalized the decision, but NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko used the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution budget to direct staff to terminate the review process.

Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) and several other committee members questioned Inspector General Hubert T. Bell particularly about whether any laws were broken by Jaczko or the Obama administration. A recent report by Bell’s office , requested by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY), alleged that Jaczko closed NRC’s review of the Yucca Mountain application in violation of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. Furthermore, the report stated that Jaczko intentionally prevented the Commission from completing its review of the decision to deny DOE’s motion to withdraw its Yucca Mountain repository license application. The inquiry also alleged that Jaczko’s management style was abrasive and he prevented Commissioners from fulfilling their responsibilities.

During the hearing, Rep. Shimkus stated the NRC was inefficient in its licensing and voting procedures and accused Jaczko of neglect of duty in allowing violations of the Commission’s own rules regarding a quorum and timely voting. Rep. Shimkus further accused Jaczko of malfeasance by deliberately misleading Commissioners, withholding information and manipulating the licensing process. Committee members repeatedly questioned whether Jaczko broke the law and if the Obama administration was involved. While Committee members and witnesses agreed the allegations were generally true and Jaczko acted improperly, Bell would not say he violated the law. He also testified he found no evidence of involvement from the White House.