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Lawmaker Warns Of Lax Security At US Nuclear Labs

Ireland seeks assurances on terrorist threat to nuclear plant
Dublin, Jan 23 (AFP) - The Irish government is seeking assurances about the ability of radioactive waste storage tanks at Britain's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant to withstand a terrorist attack, a spokesman said Wednesday.

In its annual report the nuclear watchdog, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), highlighted worries about the safety of storage tanks holding high-level radioactive waste at Sellafield.

"The RPII considers that British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (which runs the plant) should now make available any evidence it can as to the capability of these tanks to withstand a major terrorist attack," the report says.

The RPII says expert personnel studied the safety of the tanks a year ago but the matter has gained "heightened relevance" since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

In October, a security expert said a kamikaze attack on Sellafield could release 44 more times radioactivity than Chernobyl and casue two millioin cancers.

Chief executive Dr Tom O'Flaherty also expressed concern about radioactive discharge from Sellafield.

"Concentrations in the Irish Sea increased steeply from 1994 onward," he said, adding that levels in 1999 and 2000 had decreased from the peak reached in 1998.

A spokesman for Ireland's Public Enterprise Ministry, responsible for matters of nuclear safety, said the findings would be raised with British authorities.

"It is yet another indication why the government's opposition to Sellafield is so justified. The findings of the RPII are very worrying and we will be using them to underpin our opposition to the plant," the spokesman said.

Sellafield, just across the Irish Sea from Ireland on Britain's northwest coast, has been a source of tension between Dublin and London for decades.

Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has called for its immediate shutdown, describing it as a "dangerous dinosaur" and the "single most serious threat" to Ireland's environment.

Washington (AFP) Jan 23, 2002
A senior member of the House Energy and Commerce committee on Wednesday warned of lax security conditions at at least three nuclear weapons facilities in the United States.

"Mock 'terrorists' were able to access the weapons grade uranium and plutonium in security tests at DOE (Department of Energy) facilities more than 50 percent of the time," Representative Ed Markey said in a statement.

"Experts have told me that a group of suicidal terrorists could, once inside the facility, quickly build and detonate a dirty bomb or a homemade nuclear bomb," said Markey, who also is co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation.

The Massachusetts Democrat singled out the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Center and the California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

An aide in Markey's office said the security tests referred to had taken place before the September 11 terrorist attacks, but added such force-on-force exercises were conducted frequently.

"DOE has been ignoring expert critical reports on security of its facilities for decades, and as a result we are all at risk," Markey charged.

Representative Ellen Tauscher of California questioned Markey's judgment.

"There is no indication that security at our nation's laboratories is lax," she insisted in a statement.

"Security is reflective of the threat level. That is why security at the labs was good on September 10, and on September 11 security was immediately heightened."

But the former head of security at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory echoed Markey's concerns.

"I have witnessed grievous mishandling of security procedures at Livermore from ignored bomb threats to our plutonium facility, (to) allowing of foreign nationals to bypass security procedures placing classified information in jeopardy," said Charles Quinones.

Also, he said, there was a lack of "adhering to fresh pursuit guidelines, thus decimating our capabilities to effectively recover possible stolen nuclear material."

Quinones, an experienced military officer and a member of the lab's special response team before he was fired with a fellow security police officer after making his complaints known, also said officers were not provided required training.

Four former nuclear security police officers who alerted authorities to the potentially disastrous security at the California laboratory on Wednesday brought their concerns to Congress.

The whistleblowers included Quinones, former president of the lab's security officers union, vice president Matthew Zipoli, and two other officers, Mark Danielson and Marshall Steve Cole who resigned to protest the security vulnerabilities.

Cole, a former marine who served in "Operation Desert Storm" in the Gulf and "Operation Restore Hope" in Somalia and a recognized expert in combat tactics, was hired by the lab for its special response team in 1998. He left in January, 2001, frustrated at the conditions there.

"Our national labs are in a state of much needed assistance," he said in prepared remarks Wednesday.

"From security of special nuclear material to the safety of it workers, the time to act is now. We must be prepared to act swiftly in dealing with problems which directly effect our nations security."

"Some of these issues are isolated to Livermore, but others are a systemic concern for all Security Police Officers," Quinones added.

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US Warns Myanmar On Nuclear Reactor Aspirations
Washington (AFP) Jan 22, 2002
The United States warned Myanmar on Tuesday that it must honor its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, after Yangon signalled that it intended to build a nuclear reactor with Russian help.

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