8 November 1997
Source: Hardcopy The New York Times, November 8, 1997, p. A16.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (AP) -- After finding security lapses in its weapons installations across the country, the Energy Department announced today that it was adding guards, alarm systems and training at several nuclear laboratories and operations.
"We face new security challenges that demand new security solutions," Energy Secretary Federico F. Peña said.
Mr. Peña said that two internal reports had found "no immediate danger to nuclear material" at any department site but that they had revealed security shortcomings at several weapons operations.
The lapses were discovered as part of investigations by the Office of Oversight and the Office of Security Affairs. They found "exploitable weaknesses" in security at the Pantex weapons plant in Texas, the Rocky Flats operation in Colorado and two weapons laboratories: Los Alamos in New Mexico and Lawrence Livermore in California.
"The reports highlight problems," Mr. Peña said, "but they also show that our site managers have been instrumental in helping to identify the problems and have been working to address them."
Joseph Mahaley, the department's director of security affairs, said the problems found at Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos had involved lapses by security guards "in recent performance tests."
At Rocky Flats, which is undergoing major cleanup after decades of processing plutonium for warheads, investigators found inadequate contingency plans for recapturing nuclear material if it were diverted, Mr. Mahaley said.
At Pantex. near Amarillo, Tex., where thousands of obsolete warheads are being dismantled and their plutonium is kept in storage, investigators found an aging alarm system, officials said.
The findings came a week after the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found that the Energy Department had routinely allowed visitors from such countries as China, Russia and even Iran to visit three weapons laboratories without adequate security checks <http://jya.com/rced-97-229.txt>.
Some of the foreign visitors, who went to Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico were later shown to have "suspected foreign intelligence connections," said a report by the accounting office.
Mr. Peña said that as part of an eifort to improve security at department sites, the department would begin working with Navy commandos, who will try to penetrate the sites as part of training exercises.
He said the department would also take other measures to improve security, including these:
¶ Create a security oversight board that includes representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to review security and advise the Energy Secretary.
¶ Hire more guards at Livermore and Los Alamos, at the Nevada Test Site and at the Hanford weapons center in Washington State.
¶ Upgrade aging alarm and security systems at most weapons centers. including a phasing in of new computerized security technology at Pantex.
¶ Strengthen steps to process background checks of visitors to nuclear sites, including enhanced counterintelligence.
The report by the oversight office said that despite "exploitable weaknesses" at some of the weapons sites. the shortcomings would not have allowed an adversary to penetrate them.