Story highlights

Chairman Gregory Jaczko says he does not create hostile work environment

Colleague says he has bullied NRC senior officials

Commissioner Kristine Svinicki has not yet been renominated

Washington CNN —  

Hoping to fight off a firestorm that erupted this week on Capitol Hill over the renomination of the only woman appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko on Friday denied allegations he targeted women and created a hostile work environment.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Jaczko told reporters, “I categorically deny any accusations that I mistreat women.”

The comments followed a contentious week in Washington between Congress and the White House over who should serve on the five-member commission.

Senate Republicans claimed the Obama administration was dragging its feet over the renomination of Kristine Svinicki, a Republican, for another five-year term because she alleged Jaczko “bullied” senior officials at the NRC.

Svinicki, whose term on the commission ends in June, testified before Congress last year that Jaczko had engaged in “outbursts of abusive rage.”

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reignited the issue.

“Commissioner Svinicki stood up to this guy, who somehow managed to avoid being fired in the wake of all of these revelations. Now, for some mysterious reason, she is being held up for renomination,” said McConnell.

Similar sentiments were shared at a news conference Thursday by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“She (Svinicki) was confirmed four years ago without a single dissenting vote. The only real issue that seems to be holding her up is that the Majority Leader (Harry Reid) is upset that she was one of four commissioners who brought concerns over NRC Chairman Jaczko’s behavior to the attention of the White House,” Murkowski said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama was moving forward with renominating Svinicki.

“I think it’s a statement of fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not a political body, it is responsible for overseeing nuclear facilities in this country. The president believes we need to have an NRC that is functioning effectively and that is why, as I think, has now been made clear in the media, the president will renominate Ms. Svinicki because he doesn’t want to have a break in service in June when her current term expires,” Carney told reporters on Thursday.

Jaczko, a Democrat who once worked for Reid, attempted to distance himself from the nomination process on Friday at the hastily called news conference.

“There is a process certainly for any commissioner who comes to the NRC to go through,” Jaczko said. “That process is laid down by the Constitution. The president makes the nomination then the Senate does the confirmation… the chairman of the NRC wasn’t given a role in that process.”

Reid’s office told CNN he still had not decided whether he will bring Svinicki’s renomination before the Senate.

CNN’s Mike M. Ahlers contributed to this report.