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INTERVIEW: Former U.S. nuke watchdog chair says regulators must stay independent via The Asahi Shimbun

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In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Washington, Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said it is crucial for a nuclear watchdog to stay independent from the nuclear industry.

Jaczko, who, unlike his four colleagues, opposed the first new construction and operation of a nuclear plant in the United States since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, also discussed the future of nuclear energy. Excerpts from the interview follow

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Q: What was the problem facing the NRC even before you became chairman?

A: The biggest problem with the NRC continues to be the heavy influence that the industry has in selecting the members of the commission. It is a very political process.

There are few commissioners who ever get onto the commission who are not endorsed by the industry, including myself and the current chairman.

There are many good people, who are very technologically sophisticated, but especially in the last few years that I was on the commission, there was very strong influence from the industry on the commission members. You need to have much more diversity in the views of the commissioners.

It would be virtually impossible for someone who is publicly skeptical of nuclear power to ever be confirmed as a commissioner on the NRC. That is fundamentally wrong.

If you look at the state of nuclear power in the United States, it is not very good.

There are very difficult and challenging things, but the culture that exists now is one of not wanting to have the NRC involved, wanting to do more things by the licensees themselves and having less oversight from the NRC.

A lot of what I fought against when I was chairman was to re-instill that culture that our job is to ensure safety and to do what we need to do. And that was met with tremendous opposition from my colleagues on the commission.

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