Bureaucrat of the Week:  Gregory Jaczko

by Donna Schoenkopf



A little background on today's Bureaucrat of the Week. 

Gregory Jaczko went to Cornell University and majored in physics and philosophy, then got a doctorate in theoretical particle physics.  He's no dummy.

He then became Rep. Edward Markey's science guy.  I love Edward Markey.  I have a picture of Edward and me together at a Democratic Convention in California in the 1980s.  Nobody is better than Edward Markey on the environment and that means Gregory Jaczko is a real swell guy.

So Mr. Jaczko went on to various positions in the government on environmental issues, specializing in nuclear power.  He eventually became Senator Harry Reid's science policy advisor.

You know Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader from NEVADA, where the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository was on its way to becoming a reality.  Have you been keeping up with that?  We anti-nuke folks are opposed to Yucca Mountain.  A couple of objections to this dark and awful idea:

It lies on 39 earthquake fault lines.  Nuclear waste takes, I dunno, an eternity to become inert. There are 7 young volcanoes on the site. There is an aquifer below the site, just waiting for some million year long contamination.

Yeah. Yucca Mountain was about the stupidest idea I've seen in a long, long time.

So time went by and Barack Obama was elected President of the United States of America and put Gregory Jaczko in as Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

An aside here:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission used to be the Atomic Energy Commission. The name got changed because the folks who were commissioners at the AEC were said to be in the back pockets of the nuclear industry. It was so scandalous that the agency was abandoned, but reconstituted as the NRC because somebody had to watch those corporations. They can be very, very underhanded, you know. All to make a buck.

So, my hero, Barack Obama, put the kibosh on Yucca Mountain and put Gregory Jaczko in as Chair of the Commission.

Finally, a guy who cared about the environment. Nice.

But not so fast.

The brand new Tea Party Republicans were elected in 2010 and roared into Washington and passed a horrible bill which essentially wiped out all the environmental gains Obama's Democrats had made, including the Yucca Mountain deal. It's sitting in Limbo as we speak.

So. . .Fukushima happened.

And all that that implies.

And, the other four yoyos on the Commission must have tried some shenanigans because Gregory Jaczko, always having been known as a Real Nice Guy, was accused of Bad Manners when he was trying to make a point about being very, very careful in the light of what has happened at Fukushima.

The yoyos complained to Darryl Issa (head of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and has been itching to make his evil mark on Washington) and there was a hearing and Gregory Jaczko was really, really punched around and made to look like a maniac. I watched it on CSPAN.

So I just want to say:


And you earn my Bureaucrat of the Week Award.

I love you, Gregory Jaczko.



Lots of peeps making evil marks on/in Washington.  I just really don’t understand.  Both sides; all of them.  One day even Chigger Lake wont be safe !  We’ve lost our minds!

2011-12-20 by SoCal Edddie

Dear SoCal Eddie,

I do not paint all of Washington with one brush.  When a person does that (saying everything is corrupt) it causes a cynicism that is paralyzing and ends up destroying democracy.  Unless we feel that we can do good, we won’t.  We’ll just sit around doing nothing.

So buck up, Eddie.  Pick a side.  Back it.  And practice your American right to speak truth to power.  Just like Gregory Jaczko does.



2011-12-21 by donna

Jaczko has acted foolishly and needs to go…  Spouting off unfounded crap like a 50-mile exclusion zone duiring the Japanese crisis.  I should add that as a former NRC Licensing Project Manager, I believe Jaczko’s actions are completely destroying the NRC’s credibility and their reputation as a non-partisan regulator.  What the administration is doing to the Yucca Mountain Project is completely corrupt!!!

Dirty Harry “The War is Lost” Reid planted his former Science Advisor, Gregory Jaczko (and he also worked for anti-nuke Ed Markey) on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  His placement was coerced after Reid held up ~100 Bush appointees until he was forced to cave.  Reid then pushed for him to be the Chairman of the NRC under Obama SPECIFICALLY so he could derail the NRC Review of the YMP License Application from the inside.

In addition, he got Steven Chu to flip-flop his position on the YMP, just months after signing with the other National Lab Leads that the YMR was the path to pursue, in order to gain appointment to the Secretary of Energy job—So much for “Sound Science.”  Chu may be the one person that Congress could prove violated the law by trying to withdraw the YMP License Application…

Further, during their confirmation hearing questioning lead by Democrats, the sitting NRC Commissioners all had to agree that they would not raise a challenge if the DOE were to pull its YMP License Application in order to be confirmed. 

All of these players and obstructionists are in violation of the LAW!!! Reid, Waxman, Jaczko, Chu, Berkley, Heller ALL need to be thrown out of their jobs… I’d even go further and have them arrested for violating Federal Law.

The ongoing BRC effort is just one big stall tactic!!! Otherwise, the BRC members would have been permitted to include the Yucca Mountain Repository in their evaluation.  I also do not buy into the allegation that the people of Nevada do not want the repository.  I know Nye County wants it!!! My home is in Las Vegas, and except for the vocal minority that appeared at NRC-DOE public meetings on the YMR, the people I talked to while out and about were generally indifferent to the YMR and usually only knew the misinformation that the Reid media machine pumped out to the masses.

People need to read the findings presented in the recent Space, Science, and Technology subcommittee report. It reveals the NRC’s safety determination in SER Volume 3, finding that the Yucca Mountain Project License Application meets the regulatory requirements for going forward with a Construction Permit.  The committee’s findings also reveal not just a pattern, but a systematic and active effort on the part of the Administration to obfuscate, delay, and muzzle scientific and technical information and related processes in order to shut down Yucca Mountain.

Don’t worry though, as soon as Reid is unseated from his Senate Majority post, Yucca Mountain WILL come back…  It IS safe and it IS the LAW!!!!

2011-12-21 by James Raleigh

Here’s an inconvencient fact:  some components of nuclear waste remain lethal for, oh, say, a quarter of a million years.  There is no continuous civilization that has lasted 250,000 years.  If we didn’t uncover the Rosetta Stone, we’d still be in the dark about much of ancient Egypt.  So, we bury something in the ground and plan on guarding it when we know that civilizations come and go and language changes (who reads Ancient Hittite nowadays) but we think somehow we’ll be able to create a continuous, what? priesthood that would maintain the technology to take care of Yucca Mountain for a quarter mil years?

Or, more likely, we bury this stuff, in a few hundred years, our civilization collapses, or is supplanted, maybe global warming creates such havoc that we get focused on other stuff and sideline Yucca Mountain and in time it crumbles away and is forgotten until some time in the future, somebody starts digging and, Oh, Look, what’s this? 

The truth is we don’t have the technology to really deal wtih this stuff and/or render it harmless.  But we ALSO can’t keep making more of the stuff and attempt to store it at nuke plants around the country. And it’s not clear that we can create enough energy without MORE nuclear plants (or need for replacement plants as the old ones have to go offline), so we’re at an impass.  Yucca Mountain seems like a best-of-a-bad-for-now solution—bury the stuff and hope that as technology catches up we can dig it up later and somehow re-process it and make it safe, maybe (Or keep it buried and as evidence of its presence disappears under the sands, hope like hell nobody in the future starts getting curious.) 

But James is right—this has become a political football, a NYMBY game, a dilemma.  Our demands/needs have outrun our ability to deal with so many of the problems those demands are making on the earth. And with population growing and global warming unchecked and about to reach the tipping point, our options are getting smaller.  (Any word on hydrogen/cracking experiments/test generators going on up in Silicone Valley? Been hearing whispers of something “about to” prove out.  ‘Course, that may be rumors, like the Holy Grail is about to be found, or somebody about to turn base metals into gold. . . .)

Meanwhile, here I sit, using electricity, part of the problem.  Like most everybody else.

2011-12-21 by Ann Calhoun

Well, I reckon none of these folks are whistlin’ Dixie (Lee Ray).

2011-12-21 by Doyal

Oh,my!  As much as I always enjoy reading whatever Donna Dearest has to say, this is the first time I’ve enjoyed reading the comments even more.  I’m not surprised, though:  Donna was known—most endearingly so—as a shitkicker even in high school.  It’s the kind of consistency, a steadfast and fearless embrace of life’s entanglements, that, even as so much of the world threatens to turn us all into cold-hearted, cynical nihilists, one can snuggle up to and be comforted on these chilly winter nights.  Mike

2011-12-21 by Michael McGehee

@ Ann Calhoun:  PLEASE become familiar with the details of the Yucca Mountain Repository License Application and the NRC Technical Evaluation Reports before you say these kinds of things!!!

AC: “some components of nuclear waste remain lethal for, oh, say, a quarter of a million years.  There is no continuous civilization that has lasted 250,000 years” 

The Alloy 22 Waste containers designed for the YMP are conservatively assumed to start to be breached by rust at the ~330,000 year mark (i.e., the EARLIEST they would breach). 

AC: “we bury this stuff, in a few hundred years, our civilization collapses, or is supplanted, maybe global warming creates such havoc that we get focused on other stuff and sideline Yucca Mountain and in time it crumbles away and is forgotten until some time in the future, somebody starts digging and, Oh, Look, what’s this?” 

The Repository is designed to safely contain the radiological contents for 1,000,000 years.  There is a full section of the application dedicated to entrusion prevention, international markers, and, yes, even markers that a consensus of national laboratory scientists and linguists think aliens would be able to read. 

AC: “we don’t have the technology to really deal wtih this stuff and/or render it harmless” 

The USA developed the nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies being used in France, England, Russia, and Japan.  We can greatly reduce the amount of waste and the toxicity of the waste; however, it is still considered to expensive to reprocess specnt fuel in the USA.

Regarding reprocessing or rendering the waste inert, scientist continue to make progress in these directions.  That’s why the YMR should be used to strore and RETREIVE the spent fuel for reuse.  Therefore, it would never be allowed to sit there and rot and get into the water table.  The materials alone are too valuable to just throw them away…

2011-12-21 by James Raleigh

@ Donna:  One more thing…  The law is already clear for those who can read the English language.  It only authorizes the Chairman to assume dictatorial powers in the event of a threat or an accident at a facility or involving materials that the NRC licenses.  It does not apply to facilities located 12,000 miles away in a foreign country under a different regulatory body…

Here is the specific language of the statute:
“there are hereby transferred to the Chairman all the functions vested
in the Commission pertaining to an emergency concerning a particular
facility or materials licensed or regulated by the Commission,”

2011-12-21 by James Raleigh

James, your faith in humanity and technology is wonderful. I’m a wee tad more . . . cautious/cynical?  The scientists “think” (hope?) their safeguards will actually work, and that’s what scientists/engineers are trained to think/do.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to expect the “Oops” moment when the plans go kerflooey. (Nobody believed a plane full of jet fuel would actually melt enough steel to bring a skyscraper down.  That wasn’t on the design radar. And while naysayers dreaming up worst possible scenarios could have predicted a Fukashima-type mess, were dismissed as hysterical, their wild notions deemed as impossible/improbable. (Those confrontations/conversations always resemble a SNL skit with naysayers piling on more and more What Ifs. . . “Yeah, but suppose there’s a tsunami, AND a meteorite hits, AND an earthquake AND a volcano blows up right under the plant, What then, huh? huh? huh?”)

  As with everything we design/build, it’s always a trade off with maximum catastrophe vs. present day economics, plus playing the odds. Nuclear power is not “safe.”  Neither is coal burning/mining, or oil drilling or, hell, building bridges.  Things fail, things blow up, things fall down. As we develop better technologies, and knowledge we can try to prevent/mitigate the worse of it.  But we do ourselves a disservice in saying, “This is perfectly safe and will be safe for 250,000++ years and you’re an idiot if you disagree.”  I think it’s far better to say, “At our point in development, we believe this will do the trick, but as there’s always a wild card in the world, this may go kerflooey somewhere down the line so we’ll have to have faith that we can deal with that when it happens.  But, meantime, this is the best we can do at this time.” 

Which sums up Yucca Mountain: Better than other alternatives, for now.

(I suspect much criticism about all this is also the realization that America isn’t really serious about the energy issue.  We haven’t really done much even about the low hanging fruit (conservation, eliminate waste, etc.) and we’re not seriously committed to R&D or looking at other alternatives or seriously modifying our personal behavior.  Instead, we dream up HUGE technological/engineering projects and pretend that it’ll solve all our nuclear waste problems so we can start building MORE nukes.  Problems solved!  Hooray.

Uhhhnnn, not so much.

2011-12-22 by Ann Calhoun

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