Three months prior to the announcement that Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Jeffery S. Merrifield would be joining the Shaw Group Inc. as Vice President of its Power Group, Mr. Merrifield vigorously championed several major policy initiatives that directly benefited his future employer.
The Shaw Group, according to its website, “is the largest provider of commercial nuclear power plant maintenance and modification services in the United States with active contracts covering 40 operating units.” (click here) The website further stated that Shaw “… is a leading force in nuclear new plant design and construction.” (click here) Mr. Merrifield went to work for Shaw just 12 short days after he ended his term at the NRC.
As first reported by Bloomberg News, chief among the policy initiatives supported by Mr. Merrifield was a change to the "Limited Work Authorizations" rule, which regulates the procedure for certain types of construction activities at nuclear power plants. The change, which was implemented by the NRC, effectively eases environmental and oversight restrictions for those construction activities. Because Shaw is among the largest construction companies in the nuclear industry, few companies stood to benefit more from this initiative.
Furthermore, the Combined License Review Task Force, chaired by Mr. Merrifield, made several recommendations that would accelerate the approval process for new nuclear plant construction by, among other things, scaling back public hearings and public comment periods. This would have sweetened the deal for the nuclear industry, including Shaw, but the NRC did not approve several of the recommendations that were highly favorable to the industry.
On September 14, 2007, Project On Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian wrote to Dale F. Klein, Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the letter, she said, “Mr. Merrifield served as the handmaiden to the nuclear power industry for many months before cashing in on a job working for the very industry he was supposedly regulating. Unfortunately, existing revolving door rules fail to prevent such abuses from taking place. Mr. Merrifield’s example provides a case study for why the rules need to be strengthened.”
POGO has for many years watched the revolving door between government and private industry thwart policies and decisions that should protect the public. POGO has called on the NRC to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Merrifield’s actions, and has brought this particular case to the attention of the NRC Inspector General’s Office.