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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