The chairman of the federal agency that oversees safety at nuclear power plants toured a pair of reactors under construction in Fairfield County Tuesday. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko was the only member of that commission to vote against the new reactors at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in March.
He told reporters afterwards that there did not appear to be any serious issues at the Jenkinsville site, which is operated by South Carolina Electric & Gas. The two new reactors are some of the first to be approved in more than 30 years.
Jaczko caught many observers off guard when he announced Monday that he would step down as chairman. However, he still made the trip to South Carolina– saying it was already scheduled and that he plans to hold the office until a successor is named.
“It was a chance to go and tour some of the work that they’re doing on construction,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “(Inspectors) have identified some minor issues that they’re tracking, so it’s good for me to get a first-hand look at the things they were seeing.”
It was the first time the chairman had been to Jenkinsville. He was the only “no” vote when the five-member commission approved a construction and operating license for SCE&G in March. He said at the time he wanted to delay approval until the NRC could draft new safety rules in response to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown last year.
He reiterated those views Tuesday, but said he believed there would be other chances to bring the new reactors into compliance with tougher future standards.
Jaczko said there had been some problems with rebar used in concrete for the new building that will house the reactors, but added that it was a minor issue. “A construction site like this will always have a lot of challenges, changes, and modifications… It’s still early in the process.”
He did say the V.C. Summer site has one of the better safety records in the country.
Jaczko’s resignation came suddenly Monday, although his term as chairman has been controversial. The other four commissioners on the NRC have accused him of bullying tactics and providing misleading information on some issues. Jaczko has denied the accusations repeatedly and emphasized that his resignation had nothing to do with them.
He is also unpopular among South Carolina nuclear officials, who accuse him of blocking a waste dump at Yucca Mountain.
Jaczko will stop in Charlotte Wednesday, where he is scheduled to speak at the Nuclear Energy Assembly Conference.