- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

President Obama on Tuesday officially nominated Kristine Svinicki to keep her seat on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, setting up an expected battle with his own party in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, had urged that Ms. Svinicki not be nominated, saying she had lied to Congress and questioning her commitment to nuclear safety.

But Mr. Obama sent her nomination anyway, and the White House has said it wants to make sure the five-member NRC remains fully functioning which means the Senate would have to act quickly to clear her nomination before her term expires at the end of June.

“I agree with the White House that there shouldn’t be a break in her service on such an important commission that ensures the safety of our nation’s nuclear power plants,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the top Republican in the chamber.

The NRC oversees civilian uses of nuclear power. Its role has come under sharper focus after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan after last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

Ms. Svinicki was confirmed to her first term on the NRC in 2007 without any objections, but she has run into trouble after she and three other commissioners complained about abusive treatment by NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko, accusing him of being difficult to work with and of berating female staffers.

Mr. Jaczko was a former staffer for Mr. Reid and is an opponent of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in Nevada, which Mr. Reid vehemently opposes.

A spokesman for Mr. Reid said had no new comments about Ms. Svinicki’s nomination.

Last month, Mr. Reid had signaled no intent to move quickly, saying the chamber had other priorities. His spokesman also said Ms. Svinicki lied to Congress when she testified during her first confirmation hearings that she didn’t work directly on the Yucca Mountain project.

This week, House Republicans charged Mr. Jaczko lied to Congress last year when he was called to testify about his management behavior.

“Making false statements to Congress is a serious matter,” four House lawmakers said in a letter to Mr. Jaczko. The letter was led by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House investigative committee, and it accuses the chairman of “a pattern of disregard for congressional oversight.”

They said Mr. Jaczko said in hearings before both the House and Senate last year that he didn’t know he had been accused of making a female staffer cry yet the female staffer told investigators from the inspector general’s office that she cried in front of him, and he tried to settle her down.

The NRC issued a statement that took a dim view of the missive: “We have received the letter and we are reviewing it. There’s nothing new about these claims, and our priority continues to be where it must — on safety matters.”