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POGO Report Finds Security Is a Moving Target at the Nation’s Major HEU Storage Facility

October 16, 2006 

 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is unable to meet its own security standards to protect the nation’s largest stores of highly-enriched uranium from terrorist attack, an investigation by Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has found.

The results of the investigation appear in POGO’s report “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory at High Risk,” which is being released today.

The report’s findings include several pieces of disturbing information:

  • Neither facility can meet the security standard set in 2003, which is supposed to be tougher than the pre-9/11 standards. The deadline for meeting the 2003 standard is October 2006.
     
  • The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the most vulnerable site in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. During fall 2005 site visit, POGO investigators were able to park in front of the ORNL building that holds 1,000 cans of uranium-233 and walk around for about 15 minutes before guards finally approached them and escorted them from the area.
     
  • The Y-12 National Security Complex, which houses the majority of the nation’s highly enriched uranium (HEU)—enough to make approximately 14,000 nuclear warheads—will not be able to meet the government’s security standards until at least 2013.  This is when two above-ground facilities, the highly-enriched uranium manufacturing facility (HEUMF) and the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) scheduled to be completed. This means the country’s major HEU supply will remain unprotected for a full 12 years after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

“DOE has given Y-12 a ‘waiver’ from meeting its own security standard,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. “That’s like a teacher allowing a student to skip a test just because he doesn’t know the material.  What is the point of having a standard if you get rid of it when you can’t meet it?”  


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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