After raising concerns more than two years ago, POGO has just received hundreds of pages of internal documents, which are a part of a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Inspector General investigation, that outline how recently departed Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield disregarded advice from the NRC’s General Counsel and voted on two matters that “could have potentially” financially benefited three companies—Shaw Group, Westinghouse, and General Electric—during the time he was directly involved in employment negotiations with those companies. The IG investigation found that in the two months before accepting a job created for him at the Shaw Group, Commissioner Merrifield voted both to approve China’s purchase of AP 1000 reactors (in which the Shaw Group had a financial interest) and to change criteria of emergency cooling systems that would directly benefit Westinghouse (of which the Shaw Group owned a 20 percent interest). The Washington Post has already picked up the story.
The IG investigation shows that months before he left his post, Commissioner Merrifield tore down the firewall, which he said he had set up in order to protect himself from potential conflicts of interest, and started making calls and visits to potential employers while he was still a voting Commissioner. The IG determined that Commissioner Merrifield participated in 27 final decisions (votes or opinions on policy proposals that can have binding action) that could have benefited nuclear power plant licensees or licensee contractors and “did not take effective measures to prevent a potential conflict of interest during the last 2 months of his term.” Instead, Commissioner Merrifield designed his own recusal process, which was described in the IG interviews with a former staffer as “weird” and with an industry VP as “odd.” This included verbally informing his staff of recusals but not sharing with them a list of the companies he was recusing himself from voting upon, because as the IG learned when interviewing one of Commissioner Merrifield’s staffers: