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NRC Chairman Announces Plans to Retire

December 10, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Nunzio J. Palladino announced Tuesday that he has asked President Reagan not to reappoint him to the five- member commission when his term expires next June 30.

Palladino, 69, said he planned to return to private life, most likely in his home state of Pennsylvania, and ″pursue some long-deferred personal projects.″

Speculation on who might succeed Palladino as the NRC’s chairman focused on retired Vice Adm. Lando W. Zech Jr., a one-time nuclear submarine commander appointed to the commission a year and a half ago by Reagan.

Zech, 62, a former commander of the nation’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, and deputy chief of naval operations before leaving the Navy in 1983, has tended to side with the nuclear industry on key commission votes much more than Palladino.

But he frequently has called for more ″self-discipline″ by both the industry and the NRC in regulating it.

William J. Dircks, the commission’s executive director and its top administrative officer since 1980, also announced Tuesday his plans to retire next spring. No successor for Dircks has been named.

While 25 new atomic plants have been licensed during Palladino’s 41/2 -year tenure, he occasionally has drawn the ire of both Reagan administration and nuclear power advocates for what they viewed as the commission’s dilatory pace in easing safety regulations on electric utilities.

Palladino has not been hesitant to publicly scold the industry for careless plant designs, sloppy construction practices, harassing quality inspectors and poor record-keeping.

In addition, both the number and size of fines levied by the NRC against utilities for violations of government nuclear safety regulations have skyrocketed in the past four years.

On the other hand, atomic power critics complained that Palladino was too close to the industry, contending that his primary interest was reviving the ″nuclear option″ after it was dealt a nearly fatal blow by the 1979 Three Mile Island accident that aroused public fears.

Among Palladino’s accomplishments along those lines was the establishment of new regulations making it much more difficult for NRC officials to order ″backfit″ safety improvements for existing power plants without detailed cost-benefit justifications.

A nuclear engineer by training, Palladino was dean of the engineering college at Pennsylvania State University for 15 years before his appointment to the NRC. Before that, he headed the team that designed the reactor cores both for the Nautilus and the nation’s first atomic power plant at Shippingport, Pa.

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