But Jaczko, appointed by President Obama in 2009, defended his tenure by frequently telling lawmakers that “I am very passionate about safety.”
The hearing came amid an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that aides said began in the spring when agency staffers told the panel, which has oversight of government operations, of their concerns.
In his testimony, commissioner William D. Magwood, a Democratic appointee, said Jaczko regularly grew impatient and unhappy at meetings with staffers.
During one encounter, Jaczko “became increasingly irrational, and everyone in the meeting became very uncomfortable,” said Magwood, adding that staffers told him that Jaczko “sort of snapped.”
“It was like ‘The Exorcist,’ ” Magwood said staffers told him. He did not elaborate and wasn’t asked during the hearing to be more specific.
Magwood said he was especially concerned about heated exchanges he said occurred between Jaczko and three female staffers that left the women in tears. He didn’t elaborate and told lawmakers that none of the women is willing to talk publicly.
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Magwood said that he learned of the women’s concerns in recent weeks and that at least one had filed a formal complaint with the NRC’s inspector general.
“My primary motivation in being here today is really to speak on behalf of the NRC staff, who I think have very high expectations of their commission,” Magwood told reporters. “And I don’t think we’ve entirely lived up to that.”
A ‘challenging’ year
In his testimony, Jaczko said the NRC has had an “exceptionally challenging” year as the agency responded to the Japanese tsunami and meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. He said commissioners have held dozens of public meetings, and reviewed thousands of enforcement actions, license applications and other policy matters.
“This is the first time I’ve heard many of these accusations,” Jaczko said, adding later that “if there’s ever been a time that I’ve made someone feel uncomfortable, I certainly want to know so I can take whatever actions to remedy that.”
Seated at the center of a witness table with two commissioners on either side, Jaczko stared down at papers stacked in front of him as fellow commissioners listed their complaints against him.
Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki, a Republican appointee, told lawmakers that most of the disagreements stemmed from interpretations of the chairman’s legal authority. An inspector general report published in the summer faulted Jaczko for withholding some information from the commissioners about the agency’s decision to stop a safety review of a proposed nuclear waste site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain — a project opposed by the Obama administration and Jaczko’s former boss, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).