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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's meeting to approve a new nuclear reactor proposed by Southern Co. (SO) Thursday lasted for about 10 minutes.
However, it offered several hints that personal relationships on the five-member commission may be improving less than two months after they boiled over at a pair of congressional hearings. The tensions have raised questions about the nuclear safety agency's ability to do its work.
Several of NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko's counterparts thanked him on Thursday for working collegially on the Southern license review, a far cry from accusations late last year that Jaczko's temper was undermining the agency's work and that he was misleading other commissioners. The comments came despite disagreement on the issue at hand: Jaczko cast the lone dissenting vote against the license, saying he supported including a condition that his colleagues opposed.
"I think this process has worked very well and I think our discussions and communications have been fulsome, complete and very helpful and informative, so I thank all you for that," said Commissioner William Ostendorff at Thursday's hearing.
Commissioner Kristine Svinicki thanked Jaczko for "the orderly manner in which you have conducted the commission through the mandatory hearing process," adding "I thank all of my colleagues for the collegial process that we have pursued in reaching this point."
In mid-December Ostendorff and Svinicki, the only two Republican members of the commission, said at a congressional hearing they had lost confidence in Jaczko's ability to lead the agency. They and Commissioners William Magwood and George Apostolakis wrote the White House expressing "grave concerns" about Jaczko's leadership.
On Thursday there were signals that the commissioners are still able to discuss policy. Magwood, who in December was the first commissioner to say publicly that angry outbursts by Jaczko had targeted female employees, said on Thursday that he and the chairman had talked about their differing views on the Southern license.
Jaczko has denied the accusations of bullying and withholding information and said he was "mortified" by claims he had targeted women.
-By Ryan Tracy, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9245; email@example.com