U.S. nuclear chief says he's no bully to women

WASHINGTON Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:53pm EDT

Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Gregory Jaczko attends a news conference during the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna in Vienna June 21, 2011. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Gregory Jaczko attends a news conference during the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna in Vienna June 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Herwig Prammer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. nuclear safety regulator reiterated on Friday he does not bully women, a day after President Barack Obama said he would renominate one of the agency's commissioners who had accused the chairman of ill treatment.

"There's been a little bit of talk recently about my treatment of women ... any of these accusations that I specifically target women are categorically untrue," Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a hastily arranged news conference at the National Press Club.

Jaczko said he does not have a temper problem and has done nothing at the commission that could be perceived as abrasive.

Jaczko's management style has been in focus since an internal watchdog last June described him as hot-tempered.

His four colleagues on the five-member commission - two Democrats and two Republicans - took the unprecedented step last year of complaining to the White House about his behavior, and testified to Congress about their concerns in December.

The issue was revived this week when Republicans complained that the renomination of Kristine Svinicki, a Republican on the panel, has been held up.

NOT MUCH ON HIS SCHEDULE

In renaming Svinicki, Obama defied opposition from his own party's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Reid has said he believes Svinicki is too close to industry to regulate nuclear plants and said that she misled Congress about her work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project. Reid, for whom Jaczko once worked as an aide, opposes Yucca, which Svinicki has supported.

Jaczko, who did not mention Svinicki by name, also said the NRC is continuing to make sure U.S. nuclear power plants operate safely after last year's disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power station brought fresh scrutiny to the industry.

He said none of the issues surrounding the accusations, which have led to one of the most charged episodes in the commission's history, was a distraction. "My focus is on safety and will continue to be on safety," he added.

The NRC's inspector general is expected soon to issue a report that is likely to focus on the tensions on the commission. The chairman said he had no information about what the report would contain.

Jaczko had denied the accusations in December, leading some reporters to wonder why he called Friday's news conference.

"I didn't have a lot on my schedule this afternoon and I don't play golf, so I thought I would come down here and ... update you all on some issues," the chairman said.

(Editing by Dale Hudson)

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