Gov't posts sensitive list of US nuclear sites
June 3, 2009
By H. Josef Hebert
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The head of the agency responsible for the country's nuclear weapons says a list of nuclear sites accidentally made public does not include classified information about weapons-related facilities.
Thomas D'Agostino head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, told a Senate hearing Wednesday the sites on the list are of civilian facilities and that none of the information is classified. Still, he said he's concerned the list could provide an "easy locator" for uranium storage sites and other facilities related to the country's civilian nuclear program.
The 266-page document was accidentally put on the Government Printing Office Web site. It is information that is to be provided as part of an international nuclear inspection program.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The government accidentally posted on the Internet a list of government and civilian nuclear facilities and their activities in the United States, but U.S. officials said Wednesday the posting included no information that compromised national security.
However, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, questioned about the disclosure at a House hearing, expressed concern with respect to a uranium storage facility at the department's Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The facility holds large quantities of highly enriched uranium, which if obtained can be used to fashion a nuclear weapon.
"That's of great concern," said Chu, referring to the Y-12 site. "We will be looking hard and making sure physical security of those sites (at Y-12) is sufficient to prevent eco-terrorists and others getting hold of that material."
But later Chu told reporters that while the disclosure may be embarrassing "there's no secret classified information that's been compromised (and) the sites and everything are public knowledge" already available elsewhere.
But, he added, the list "gathers it up" in a single document, and that is of some concern.
The 266-page document was published on May 6 as a transmission from President Barack Obama to Congress. According to the document, the list was required by law and will be provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Some of the pages are marked "highly confidential safeguards sensitive."
Chu said he had no details as to how the document was released, beyond that it involved the government printing office. "Someone made a mistake," said Chu, appearing before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the document had been reviewed by a number of U.S. agencies and that disclosure of the information did not jeopardize national security. He said the document is part of an agreement on nuclear material inspection under the IAEA's nuclear nonproliferation effort.
"While we would have preferred it not be released, the Departments of Energy, Defense, and Commerce and the NRC all thoroughly reviewed it to ensure that no information of direct national security significance would be compromised," LaVera said in a statement.
An Energy Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said none of the sites on the list are directly part of the government's nuclear weapons infrastructure.
In addition tothe Y-12 facility, the document includes some facilities at the Energy Department's Hanford nuclear site in Washington state and various civilian nuclear fuel processing sites including uranium enrichment facilitates, according to government officials.
Uranium stored at the Y-12 site is scheduled to be moved into a new $549 million high-security warehouse in 2010, said Y-12 spokesman Steve Wyatt. The 300-by-475-foot, fortress-like warehouse, under construction since 2004, will replace several aging vault-like storage facilities.
Beth Hayden, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the agency reviewed the document as it relates to civilian facilities with NRC licenses and "we are confident that information of direct national security significance was not compromised."
The NRC has jurisdiction over commercial nuclear power plants and civilian uranium processing and storage facilities.
The publication of the list was first reported in an online secrecy newsletter Monday. The document had been posted on the Government Printing Office Web site, but has since been removed from that site.
In a statement, the Government Printing Office said Wednesday: "Upon being informed about potential sensitive nature of the attachment in this document, the Public Printer of the United States removed it from GPO's Web site pending further review. After consulting with the White House and Congress, it was determined that the document, including sensitive attachment, should be permanently removed from the Web site."
The GPO said it processes and produces approximately 160 House documents during the two-year congressional cycle, and the list was received by the agency in the normal process and produced under routine operating procedures.
The document includes both government and civilian nuclear facilities, all of which have various levels of security, including details and location of nation's 103 commercial nuclear power reactors, information readily available from various sources.
The document details the location of the nuclear sites and what is being done there.
For instance, there are nuclear reactors at the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pa. This facility is currently working on research into what happens when there are accidents with the nuclear reactors. The project started in 2006 and is expected to end in 2012, according to the document.
Associated Press reporter Pamela Hess in Washington and Duncan Mansfield in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.
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