* Republicans want NRC Commissioner Svinicki to remain
* Senate Majority Leader Reid opposes her, says she lied
* Term ends in June, could lead to delays in agency votes
By Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, April 19 U.S. President Barack Obama
will renominate Republican Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission, defying opposition from his own party's
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the White House said on
Republicans want Svinicki, whose term as a commissioner
expires in June, to stay on the panel and assert that the
process has been held up because she, along with three other
commission members, accused current NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko,
a Democrat, of bullying women.
A vacancy could cause delays in commission decisions on
safety reforms at U.S. nuclear plants that the NRC ordered after
last year's disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant.
"The president will renominate Ms. Svinicki," White House
spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, confirming a Reuters
report. "He doesn't want to have a break in service in June when
her current term expires."
Scheduling a Senate hearing and vote on Svinicki will now be
up to Reid, a Democrat who has said he opposes her because she
is too close to the nuclear industry she regulates and does not
deserve the job.
Svinicki, 45, is currently in Africa for a nuclear meeting
in Namibia where she is speaking, followed by another conference
in South Africa. She could not be reached for comment.
A quiet and serious nuclear engineer who shuns the media
spotlight, Svinicki worked at the Energy Department and then for
Republicans in the Senate before her appointment to the NRC in
"She has performed in a manner that is above reproach,"
Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee, told a news conference, calling the
delay in nominating Svinicki as "a level of retribution."
"She has had the courage to step forward and has blown the
whistle on the chairman, and the chairman happens to be a good
friend to Senator Reid," Murkowski said.
The move by the Democratic president may be seen as a rare
gesture of bipartisanship in an election year. Relations between
the White House and congressional Republicans are tense after
months of bruising standoffs over budget and deficit issues.
Republicans are rallying behind Svinicki as they try to
improve their popularity among women voters in the run-up to the
Nov. 6 presidential election.
Her situation has been spotlighted in speeches on two
consecutive days by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell,
who first accused the White House of delay before Reuters
reported on Thursday that the renomination would go ahead.
Reid's opposition has drawn renewed attention to one of the
most toxic episodes in the fractious NRC's history.
Last year, Svinicki and the three other commissioners at the
commission - two Democrats, two Republicans - took the
unprecedented step of complaining to the White House about the
management style of NRC chairman Jaczko.
Their concerns were made public in December during
congressional hearings in which the commissioners accused Jaczko
- a former Reid policy aide - of berating senior women NRC staff
members, bringing them to tears in front of others.
Jaczko has denied the accusations.
The White House's Carney told reporters on Thursday he was
not aware of any move to ask Jaczko to step down.
Senate Republicans have requested a new report from the
NRC's internal watchdog concerning Jaczko, which is expected to
be completed soon, a Senate aide said.
Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and
Commerce Committee will also probe concerns at a hearing slated
for May 31.
Democrats and Republicans have long fought over appointments
to the NRC. Reid famously held up about 175 political
appointments by former President George W. Bush until he
nominated Jaczko as a commissioner.
Jaczko had helped the Nevada senator fight a nuclear waste
dump planned for Yucca Mountain while he was on his staff.
Reid has defended Jaczko as chairman, saying he has been
targeted by those who would slow industry safety reforms
following the Fukushima disaster.
"Senator Reid opposes Commissioner Svinicki's renomination
because she lied to Congress about her past work on Yucca
Mountain," Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid, said in a
Senator Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and
Public Works Committee, believes Svinicki should be replaced and
has accused her of being misleading during a 2007 confirmation
hearing about the extent of her work on the Yucca project.
Svinicki has said she did not mischaracterize the extent of
her work on Yucca during her time at the Energy Department, but
Boxer has said technical reports authored by Svinicki seem to
show she was deeply involved with the project.
Republicans brushed off Reid's accusation. "The president
didn't seem to think it was a concern, and neither do we,"
Republican Senator John Barrasso told the news conference.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who is a member of
the environment committee, said he opposes Svinicki's
appointment because he said she rushed to help renew a license
for a controversial power plant in his state of Vermont.