Pressure mounts for Magwood resignation

NRC Commissioner William Magwood 's term is ending in controversy.

NRC Commissioner William Magwood ‘s term is ending in controversy.

Pressure is growing on NRC Commissioner William Magwood to resign his position over conflict of interest charges stemming from his acceptance of a position as head of the OECD’s nuclear promotional arm, the Nuclear Energy Agency, while staying at the NRC, whose charter forbids promotion of nuclear power, for many months before beginning his new position.

As we reported last week, Magwood sent a letter to the attorneys for 34 groups that in June had insisted he both step down and retroactively recuse himself from nuclear safety decisions, stating his refusal to resign and denying a conflict of interest.

Yesterday, the 34 groups sent a letter to President Obama urging him to request Magwood’s resignation (Obama does not have the power to “fire” Magwood as the NRC is an independent agency) and a separate letter to NRC Inspector General Hubert Bell urging him to open an IG investigation into the charges.

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) yesterday sent its own letter to President Obama  urging Magwood’s resignation as well.

Wrote POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian:

“With this move, Magwood will make a complete revolution through the revolving door—a practice you prohibited with Executive Order 13490, the Ethics Pledge. Furthermore, Commissioner Magwood’s situation might also violate federal conflict of interest laws and regulations related to negotiating or arranging prospective employment. For example, 18 U.S.C. § 208, the basic criminal conflict of interest statute, prohibits an executive branch employee from participating personally and substantially in a particular government matter that will affect the employee’s financial interest, which includes arrangements concerning prospective employment.”

And then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has made no secret of his dislike for Magwood, weighed in when asked about Magwood in a telepressconference about climate change:

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from the line of Lauren Gardner with the Congressional Quarterly Roll Call. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, Senator Reid. Thanks for doing this call. I wanted to ask you about NRC Member Magwood. He’s still not answering calls to step down by environmental groups and anti-nuclear advocates. I just wanted to see if you had any comment…

REID: I hear he’s leaving. I hear he’s leaving, thank goodness.

QUESTION: Can you talk more about that?

REID: No. He’s the only person I’ve ever met with who lied openly without equivocation lied to me. He would never have had that job had he been honest. But he lied because he was part of the nuclear industry.

He said he would be fine. His name was sent to me by somebody in the White House. And he took advantage of a lot of different things. I hope he leaves, couldn’t leave quick enough for me. He’s been a disaster.

Other than that I have no feelings about him.

Magwood certainly will be leaving the NRC by sometime in September, when he’s slated to take the NEA position. But with the mounting criticism of him staying in office, it’s not clear he’ll last until then.

Whether he does or not, however, the issue points out the need for President Obama to promptly nominate two new NRC Commissioners (Commissioner Apostalakis’ term ended June 30) who have nuclear safety–not the nuclear industry–as their top priority.

You can urge President Obama to appoint strong safety advocates to the NRC here.

Michael Mariotte

July 22, 2014


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