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DOE Expands Security Stand-down

August 2, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 31

All Department of Energy facilities using classified "controlled removable electronic media" were ordered by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to temporarily cease operations as of July 26. The order affects about half of nearly 60 DOE sites that now must inventory classified disks and toughen security oversight. The stand-down grew from two lost computer zip disks, missing from Los Alamos National Laboratory (C&EN, July 26, page 15). Nineteen LANL scientists have been placed on leave with pay--15 because of security concerns and four following an accident where a student was injured. All normal LANL work has been suspended, and new security measures have been introduced. Also, an inventory of classified material and a security training program are under way there. Like workers at most DOE labs, Los Alamos' 12,000 employees conduct a mix of classified and unclassified work at 2,000 sites at the sprawling 36-sq-mile lab. LANL spokesman Kevin Roark emphasizes that work continues as scientists reexamine safety and security protocols and equipment. He says, however: "The culture needs to change. If you are an employee who thinks this is a hassle, unnecessary, or meant for everyone else, lab Director G. Peter Nanos has been clear: Seek employment elsewhere." LANL's situation affects other DOE lab scientists, who complain of unanswered phone calls and say that "if Los Alamos gets cancer, we all get chemotherapy." Attention is also focusing on the University of California, whose contract to manage LANL is up for grabs this year; several organizations are interest in bidding. Congress is watching as well, and one senator has offered a bill to end UC's contract.


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