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Project on Government Oversight




Whistleblowers Propose "10 Commandments" For Reducing Vulnerabilities of Nuclear Power Plants and Weapons Facilities to Terrorist Attack

November 29, 2001 


Contact: GAP, DC Office Tom Devine (ext. 124), Martin Edwin Andersen (ext. 143), (202) 408-0034 GAP Seattle Office, Tom Carpenter, (206) 292-2890 or POGO, Danielle Brian, (202) 347-1122

A group of nuclear energy and weapons whistleblowers with extensive experience in safety and security issues, including the reduction of plant vulnerabilities to terrorist attack, have proposed "10 commandments" for closing the window on the continued safety hazards at nuclear facilities, two good government groups announced today.

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) have just released a white paper, "10 Ways to Reduce Vulnerabilities of Nuclear Power Plants and Weapons Facilities to Terrorist Attack." Ten whistleblowers representing several atomic power stations, research centers and weapons facilities signed the document, which makes concrete suggestions to defend American nuclear safety and security in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"After September 11th, it is vital that the myriad vulnerabilities that had been openly discussed before the terrorist incidents, be addressed now, before those mistakes become tragedies," said Tom Carpenter, GAP's director of nuclear programs. "The suggestions offered by accredited nuclear safety whistleblowers, all of whom have had their warnings vindicated in one way or another in the past, should provide federal policymakers with a framework for addressing these critical issues."

The white paper's suggestions range from making security budgets line items in departmental and agency budgets, therefore elevating their status to a priority, to suggestions about how to safely store weapons-grade fissile materials, to protecting whistleblowers from reprisal by bureaucratic managers bent on covering up management mistakes and abuses.

"When he took office, Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge promised that those who raise potential security problems or questions would be treated with respect. By focusing attention to the kind of issues whistleblowers often uncover, these can and should be addressed in a forthright manner," said POGO Director Danielle Brian. "Unfortunately, reprisal against nuclear safety whistleblowers is a time-honored practice at the Department of Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other critical government agencies.

"It is time that Ridge's principles be put into practice, and we believe that the '10 Commandments' provides the guideposts for how to do so."

Among the other proposals included in the white paper were:

  • Security at DOE nuclear sites should be carried out by trained law enforcement personnel

  • Obsolete nuclear plants should be closed, and that bureaucratic "self-policing" should be abolished;

  • Government contractors who do not protect their whistleblowers should be debarred from further government service

  • The practice of indemnifying contractors for legal fees that result from their retaliation against national security whistleblowers should end.

"These reforms rely on strengthening freedom of speech instead of secrecy. The whole context for these '10 Commandments' is the need to revive the 'right to warn' within the federal bureaucracy," noted Tom Devine, GAP legal director. "For too long, the bureaucracy's response to whistleblowers has been to 'kill the messenger" bearing bad news about vulnerabilities to terrorist attack, as well as other waste, fraud and abuse of power issues.

"Unfortunately, much of what needs to be reformed has been known for a long time, yet very little has been done. Americans deserve not only the appearance of security, but the reality as well."

10 Ways to Reduce Vulnerabilities of
Nuclear Power Plants and Weapons Facilities to Terrorist Attack

    1. Security budgets should be a line item in departmental and agency budgets, where they can be fully debated by Congress (behind closed doors, if necessary) and analyzed as part of a comprehensive strategy against terror, thereby elevating the issue to a priority status.

    2. The Department of Energy should put an end to the practice of indemnifying the vast numbers of government contractors for cost overruns associated with doing business, as well as whose that indemnify contractors for legal fees incurred as a result of their retaliation against national security whistleblowers.

    3. Whistleblowers at these facilities should be granted a full range of legal protections so that they are not harassed, transferred or dismissed from their posts for "committing the truth" by pointing out security failures that bureaucratic managers either ignore or try to sweep under the rug. Recommendations concerning whistleblowers include:

    • a) Managers need to be prevented from stripping national security whistleblowers of their security clearance, which automatically makes them dysfunctional in the workplace and denies fundamental constitutional rights.

    • b) Whistleblowers should be fully involved in the investigation of their complaints, together with others that identify security problems, including identifying and helping to craft solutions to security breaches and violations.

    • c) Existing federal anti-gag statutes should be made permanent and go beyond being a symbolic right to one that offers whistleblowers a general right not to be forced to seek advanced permission (prior restraint) for sounding the alarm about national security threats.

    • d) Adequate safety and security requires trustworthy - ethical, competent and accountable - professionals working in a "safety and security conscious" work environment. Employers of safety and security professionals should work with appropriate professional bodies in upholding and protecting the codes of ethics of the safety and security professions and in creating "safety and security conscious" work environments.

    4. Security at Department of Energy nuclear sites should be carried out by federal workers, preferably appropriately trained law enforcement personnel. (Use of the military was discontinued in the 1960s.) Part-time security personnel positions should be abolished, where possible, increasing the staff of full-time personnel accordingly. By doing so, DOE would eliminate the practice of placing managers on security detail, thereby relegating security to a lower priority and ensuring that the same bureaucracy will essentially police itself. Greater attention should be paid to increasing the size of the DOE's protective force and improving weaponry, tactics and command, control and communication to defend against both theft and radiological sabotage.

    5. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission should be empowered to close obsolete Department of Energy plants, many of which were established half a century ago, in order to reduce government costs and eliminate potential targets of terrorist attack. Particular attention should be paid to consolidating nuclear materials at more easily protected sites, which would both save money and reduce the risk to the public posed by the present dispersion of these materials around the country.

    6. General oversight of security issues concerning nuclear power plants and weapons facilities should be independent, not part of the Department of Energy's responsibilities, in order to ensure greater attention to possible security deficits and their timely remediation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be granted greater authority and a larger role in nuclear power plant security.

    7. Independent oversight mechanisms should also be empowered to protect national security whistleblowers from reprisal by an agency (DOE) with a history of "killing the messenger" who warns of possible vulnerabilities. Currently, the Department of Energy's whistleblower protection offices are, in fact, Trojan Horses that end up punishing rather than rewarding truth tellers.

    8. Plans to abolish the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Safety and Health should be shelved, and its mission expanded to provide greater protection from terrorist threats.

    9. All government contractors must have an adequate program to protect whistleblowers and deal effectively with their concerns or they should be debarred from further government service.

    10. Storage of special nuclear materials should be stabilized to avoid criticality.

Whistleblowers Who Endorse the "10 Commandments"
Of Nuclear Power Plant and Weapons Facility Safety

Mark A. Graf
Alarm Station Supervisor
Rocky Flats (Colo.) Environmental Technology Site

Jeff Peters
Director, Protective Force Operations
Rocky Flats (Colo.) Environmental Technology Site

Ronald Timm
President, RETA Security
(Senior Security Analyst for Department of Energy)

Charles Quinones, President
Security Police Officers Association
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Mathew J. Zipoli, Vice President
Security Police Officers Association
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Mark Danielson
Security Police Officer
Special Response Team Member
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Marshall S. Cole, Jr.
Security Police Officer
Special Response Team Member
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Scot A. Walker
Special Response Team Member
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

David Weiner
Special Response Team Member
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Joseph Carson, P.E.
National Society of Professional Engineers
Oak Ridge (Tenn.) National Laboratory

David E. Ridenour, P.E.
Principal Engineer,
R.E.V. Eng. Svcs.
former Federal Director of Security at Rocky Flats

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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