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Environment

DOE nuclear security said to be inadequate

May 3, 2004 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 82, ISSUE 18

The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been too slow to develop nuclear facility security plans that reflect the post-Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist threat, says a General Accounting Office (GAO) report released April 27 at a House hearing. The report (GAO-04-701T) says DOE's internal development and review process to determine its security needs in light of the 2001 terrorists' attack took nearly two years, and GAO remains doubtful that DOE's new criteria are adequate to protect the facilities. For instance, the department's plan to avoid sabotage at chemical facilities requires sites to meet chemical "industry standards" that do not exist, GAO says. GAO doesn't believe that DOE can meet its own 2006 deadline to implement the new, tougher security measures. However, Linton F. Brooks, NNSA undersecretary for nuclear security and administrator of NNSA, challenged GAO's views at the House hearing, saying NNSA would rely on "technology to improve security." He noted that DOE had increased security spending by 75% since 2002 and requested $707 million and 2,400 security officers for 2005 to protect several tons of plutonium and enriched uranium stored at more than five labs as well as to protect many cleanup sites throughout the nation.

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