Victor Stello Jr., a senior Energy Department official, will not be prosecuted for allegedly false statements he made to investigators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to Energy Department General Counsel Stephen D. Wakefield.
In a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Wakefield said he had "been informed by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia that they do not intend to prosecute Stello" on the basis of a report by the NRC's inspector general. Federal prosecutors "are closing their file on the matter and expect to take no further action," Wakefield said.
Dingell had asked Energy Secretary James D. Watkins to revoke Stello's top-secret security clearance because of the inspector general's report, which accused Stello of misleading investigators while he was NRC chief of staff. Stello is now deputy assistant secretary of energy for facilities, charged with supervising the department's nuclear weapons factories. He could not hold that job without a clearance.
The investigation had to do with Stello's role in a complicated internal scandal at the NRC known as the Fortuna Affair for its chief target, a since-vindicated NRC investigator named Roger Fortuna.
Several inquiries by congressional committees, in addition to the one by the NRC inspector general, concluded that Stello mishandled the investigation and was less than candid about his role in it. Fallout from the Fortuna affair doomed Stello's attempt to win Senate confirmation as assistant secretary of energy for defense programs. When he withdrew his name, Watkins named him a deputy assistant, a post that does not require confirmation.
In a separate letter to Dingell, Watkins refused to revoke Stello's clearance and restated his "full confidence in the integrity and conscientiousness" he said Stello has shown while working for him.