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Public Statements

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I want to talk about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This is the Federal agency that ensures the safety of our Nation's nuclear powerplants.

Specifically, I want to bring attention to the reappointment of Kristine Svinicki--or, rather, the curious lack of action surrounding her reappointment.

Commissioner Svinicki is one of the most respected Commissioners ever to serve at the NRC. She is an experienced and fair-minded regulator whose leadership has earned her the admiration of Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. She was confirmed for her first term without a single dissenting vote.

Prior to her 4 years on the Commission, Commissioner Svinicki spent more than two decades in public service working on nuclear safety issues in the Senate, at the Department of Energy, and with the Wisconsin Public Utilities Commission. A nuclear engineer, she is one of the world's foremost authorities on nuclear safety and nuclear power, and a great asset to the Commission.

Last year Commissioner Svinicki had the courage to stand up and blow the whistle on a sitting NRC Chairman, Gregory Jaczko, for bullying subordinates.

According to an Associated Press story from December:

The commissioners told Congress [that] women at the NRC felt particularly intimidated by Jaczko. Commissioner William Magwood--

Who is a Democrat, by the way--

told the oversight panel that Jaczko had bullied and belittled at least three female staff members, one of whom told Magwood she was ``humiliated'' by what Magwood called a raging verbal assault.

This is the Democratic Commissioner on NRC, and here is an excerpt from the inspector general's report:

``Several current and former Commission staff members,'' it says, ``said the Chairman's behavior caused an intimidating work environment. A former Chairman told OIG that the Chairman often yelled at people and [that] his tactics had a negative effect on people. He described the behavior as ruling by intimidation.''

Commissioner Svinicki stood up to this guy, who somehow managed to avoid being fired in the wake of all of these revelations, in an effort to preserve the integrity of the agency and to protect the career staffers who were the subject of the Chairman's tactics. Now, for some mysterious reason, she is being held up for renomination.

The FBI completed its background check on Commissioner Svinicki 15 months ago. Her ethics agreement was approved around the same time. She has been ready to go for more than a year. There is no legitimate reason for Commissioner Svinicki not to have been renominated and reconfirmed by now. Any further delay is unacceptable.

If Commissioner Svinicki isn't renominated by June 30, NRC will lose one of its finest members, the Commission's work will be impaired, and we will be forced to conclude that the reason is related to her honorable actions as a whistleblower--that she is being held up in retaliation for speaking up against a rogue Chairman who bullies his subordinates.

There is a reason Congress charged five Commissioners with the responsibility to protect public health and safety. Ensuring the safety of our Nation's nuclear powerplants is serious business. So this morning I am calling on the White House to renominate Commissioner Svinicki today to ensure that this well-qualified and widely respected woman remains in place for another term.

The public is best served by a commission that is fully functional. There should be no question in anyone's mind that it will be fully functional. We cannot wait any longer for this nomination.

I yield the floor.

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