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The chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), particle physicist Gregory Jaczko, has announced he is to resign. The announcement comes a year after congressional Republicans objected to his leadership in phasing out the proposed nuclear-waste repository in Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Jaczko's time as chairman had recently been hit by a number of accusations over the handling of the $10bn Yucca Mountain facility – a site that Congress had designated as the sole potential location for a national deep underground nuclear-waste dump before funding for the repository was terminated in 2011. After allegations by commission staff that Jaczko had "unilaterally and illegally" stopped a safety-evaluation report on the facility's design, last June Hubert Bell, the NRC's inspector general, accused Jaczko of "using forceful management techniques to accomplish his objectives" while noting that he had operated within the law.
In October Jaczko's four fellow commissioners – George Apostolakis, William Magwood, William Ostendorff and Kristine Svinicki – then wrote a letter to the White House accusing Jaczko of "causing serious damage" to the commission that could affect safety at US nuclear plants.
Svinicki, the only female commissioner, told Congress last December that Jaczko had created a working environment in which women felt especially threatened. Jaczko has categorically denied that charge. Early this month the Obama administration nominated Svinicki, a former aide to Republican senators, for another term as an NRC commissioner.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist who supports Democratic policies, praised Jaczko for "his efforts to hold the nuclear industry accountable".