Security Contractor for
LANL Alleges Poor Security at Lab
Storage of Taiwanese Spent Nuclear Fuel
Rods Proposed for Russia
DOE Announces Shipments from the Savannah
River Site to WIPP
A letter to the United States Department
of Energy (or DOE), dated February 9, 2001, alleges that the
nation's plutonium supply is far from secure, and is at risk
of accidental nuclear explosion or possible theft of special
nuclear materials. The letter was sent by Ronald Timm, president
of RETA Security of Lemont, Illinois, a security firm contracted
to check security at Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL).
Timm wrote, "[LANL] is almost comic, although tragedy would
probably be a better word for it." In the letter sent to Energy
Secretary Spencer Abraham and 19 members of Congress, including
New Mexico's Senator Jeff Bingaman, Timm claims that the DOE
inspector general has also recently released a report outlining
"clear evidence of actual risk to special nuclear materials
at key DOE sites and in transit." Timm's letter mentions LANL
and Colorado's Rocky Flats as having inadequate security.
Timm urged Secretary Abraham and Congress "to take this matter
seriously and provide leadership necessary to resolve these
dangers to our nation before an accident or deliberate terrorist
action causes the loss of many lives." Timm also suggested
that until DOE gets a better handle on its security, DOE "lock
down" or cease its nuclear materials work.
Although RETA has
acted as principal analysts of all safeguards and security
plans for DOE headquarters for upwards of four years, Timm's
credibility remains in question. James Rickman, spokesman
for LANL said, "The tone of Mr. Timm's letter speaks volumes
about its credibility. The laboratory has multiple, robust
security measures in place that are more than adequate to
protect special nuclear materials from all credible threats."
Steven Aftergood, of the Project on Government Secrecy for
the Federation of American Scientists, says that while the
public may not know whether to believe the DOE or RETA, if
Timm's allegations are true, then the nation's nuclear safety
is "a little troubling."
* Russia's nuclear agency, Minatom, is sponsoring a bill in the Duma
allowing the importation of nuclear waste into Russia, overturning the
existing importation prohibition. Plans are in the works to use Siberia
and the Ural (pronounced your-all) Mountains as an international dumping
ground for spent fuel rods from commercial nuclear power plants.
This week a DOE document was released which reveals that despite
the Russian law, the U.S. is actively working for the importation of spent
fuel rods to Russia from eight Taiwanese reactors, which confirmed the
suspicions of environmentalists in Moscow protesting against the bill. The
DOE report was funded by DOE's Defense Programs and states that Russia has
"significant spent fuel storage and transportation management experience,
candidate storage and repository sites, but limited financial resources
available for their development."
Spent nuclear fuel can be reprocessed and used in nuclear weapons.
American companies built the Taiwanese reactors. In order to reduce the
possibilities of spent fuel rods being used to make nuclear bombs, under
U.S. law all nuclear materials made in America must remain in the control
of the U.S. While the nuclear materials would still be in U.S. control,
the DOE plan sets out a technical path for establishing an international
dump for spent fuel rods in Russia.
Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the environmental group
Ecodefense, said, "The U.S. Energy Department and the American nuclear
industry are looking to set up an international radioactive toilet in
Russia. In polls, 93.5 percent of Russians are strongly opposed to the
nuclear waste import proposed by the Russian nuclear industry. It's not
just a fight against nuclear waste import, but a fight for establishing
democracy and strong civil society in Russia."
*In a display of putting the cart before the horse, DOE recently
announced that as early as next month it plans to begin trucking
plutonium-contaminated nuclear waste from the Savannah River Site to the
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (or WIPP) even though they have not received
authorization from either the federal Environmental Protection Agency or
the New Mexico Environment Department.
Activists are concerned that transporting the waste will endanger
thousands of people living along the roadways. Arjun Makhijani, president
of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland said,
"The wastes that are being sent to WIPP are relatively safely stored where
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