WASHINGTON — Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Lando W. Zech Jr. said Monday that his agency is investigating allegations that NRC officials compromised or tried to stop commission probes into safety problems at nuclear plants.
Zech, reacting to disclosures made at a Senate hearing two weeks ago, said an NRC administrative law judge would review the actions of commission officials who handled investigations of a Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear plant and the Comanche Peak plant in Texas.
In addition, Zech said the NRC's Office of Inspector and Auditor would look into the apparent leak of a commission memorandum from the office files of Commissioner Thomas M. Roberts to Middle South Services, parent company of Louisiana Power & Light Co.
The memo concerned safety problems at Louisiana Power & Light's Waterford nuclear plant near New Orleans. NRC officials testified that the leak gave the utility a huge advantage in deflecting a subsequent commission safety probe.
The allegations surfaced at an April 9 hearing by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where NRC staff officials charged that agency managers improperly helped industry officials to foil NRC investigations and cover up safety problems.
Committee Chairman John Glenn (D-Ohio) said the allegations showed that the NRC was incapable of rooting out misconduct by its officials, and he vowed to introduce legislation to establish an independent inspector general for the agency.
Zech said that the NRC was "moving aggressively" to investigate the allegations raised before the Senate panel and that it had begun reviewing its policies concerning internal investigations of misconduct by agency officials.