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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

25 January 2002

Text: U.S. Official Defends Security at Nuclear Weapons Sites

(Responds to Congressman's allegations of lax security) (700)
A U.S. official says allegations that the Department of Energy has lax
security at its nuclear weapons facilities are false and misleading.
Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration John
Gordon said in a January 23 press release that he has assessed the
security conditions at the weapons sites many times "and I personally
reviewed our posture immediately following the terrorist attacks in
September."
Gordon's remarks follow the release of a letter sent to the Department
of Energy (DOE) by U.S. Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts
Democrat who co-chairs the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation.
Markey said numerous security problems have occurred at DOE nuclear
weapons facilities, such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and
that "mock terrorists" were able to access weapons grade uranium and
plutonium in security tests at the facilities more than 50 percent of
the time.
He said that, according to experts, a group of terrorists could, once
inside a facility, quickly build and detonate a bomb which could
achieve the same explosive force as a small nuclear weapon.
Gordon said in response that there is no question that DOE takes
security seriously as a critical part of its mission, and charges that
there is a 50-percent failure rate in security tests "are simply
untrue."
Gordon said other federal agencies look to DOE's security force as a
model for effective practices, and he added that the energy agency
regularly trains individuals in other federal security organizations.
Following is the text of the press release:
(begin text)
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
January 23, 2002
Statement of Gen. John Gordon (Ret. U.S.A.F.)
Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
and Under Secretary of Energy Security at Nuclear Weapons Facilities
WASHINGTON, DC - Administrator John Gordon released the following
statement regarding security at the Department of Energy's nuclear
weapons facilities:
"As the Administrator of the NNSA, I am responsible to the Secretary
of Energy and the American people for the security of the U.S. nuclear
weapons complex. I have assessed the security conditions at our sites
many times and I personally reviewed our posture immediately following
the terrorist attacks in September.
Allegations that the Department of Energy has lax security at its
nuclear weapons facilities are false and misleading. Charges that
there is a fifty percent failure rate in our security tests are simply
untrue.
While we welcome serious inquiries into the Department's security
practices, it is unfortunate that some try to create a climate of fear
grossly disproportionate to the risks to the public. Such unfounded
allegations are a disservice to the communities that are home to our
national defense facilities.
There is no question that DOE takes security seriously as a critical
part of our mission. The strong group of professionals who protect our
sites are a source of pride and it is grossly unfair to characterize
individuals or the system as uncaring or ignoring problems. Other
federal agencies look to the DOE's force as a model for effective
practices, and in fact DOE regularly trains other federal security
organizations.
As is often the case in "reports" such as the one from POGO, the use
of outdated data contributes to misleading conclusions. In the mid
1990s, when budgets were severely cut and security was progressively
degraded, there was a higher level of risk. Now we aggressively
protect our people, facilities, and material, and we display a
formidable security posture to potential attackers. Our forces are
well-trained and well-equipped. They are tested by outside
challengers, often to failure - so we know where weaknesses are. Then
we fix the problem.
The physics of creating a bomb has been well understood by the DOE for
a long time. That is why we have security and operational measures in
place to provide a high level of assurance that these materials remain
safe and secure. Nuclear material is not at risk at Department of
Energy facilities."
Additional information on this topic is available at the following Web
site: www.energy.gov
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
      



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