Published on Monday, April 9, 2007 by MSNBC
by Mike Stuckey
BETHESDA, Md. – With no public discussion or input from Congress, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has quietly obtained armed federal police status for a small office of investigators whose big cases typically involve people sleeping on the job, falsifying documents or misplacing equipment.”I didn’t realize you needed guns and handcuffs to protect yourself against paper cuts,” said Dave Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a longtime critic of the NRC’s Office of Investigations.
The police status was granted after the office claimed it needed powers it never or rarely uses, and raised the specter of clandestine and dangerous missions in letters and memos to other federal agencies. While police powers may be of questionable value in performing NRC investigations, they support a job classification that pays non-managerial agents an average of $130,000 a year and as much as $145,000.
The Office of Investigations was formed in 1982 to investigate violations by licensees and contractors of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the five-member panel appointed by the president to oversee non-military applications of nuclear technology. When agents suspect criminal violations, they’re supposed to notify the Justice Department, which then decides if a criminal investigation will be opened.