June 3, 2009


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Federal Gov't Accidently Posts 'Sensitive' List of U.S. Nuclear Sites

By Megan Chuchmach

A 266-page report detailing the country's government and civilian nuclear facilities and commercial nuclear power reactors was accidently posted online by the federal government last month, describing not only nuclear site locations but also their activities and stored fuel for nuclear weapons.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the disclosure is "of great concern" at a House of Representatives hearing today as he referenced a uranium storage facility in Tennessee. "We will be looking hard and making sure physical security of those sites (at Y-12) is sufficient to prevent ecoterrorists and others getting hold of that material," Chu said.

The information, some of which was reportedly marked "highly confidential safeguards sensitive," was unclassified, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said Wednesday, and was not part of the military weapons program.

The report was posted in May until being removed yesterday after Secrecy News, an online newsletter from the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, reported the mistake Monday.

Steven Aftergood, the director of the FAS project, said that while the posting isn't a concern for national security because "the information does not go significantly beyond what is already in the public domain, it simply aggregates it," it may be an "information policy concern."

"The President said don't disclose it and it got disclosed," Aftergood said. "That means it's not supposed to happen and somebody screwed up."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has called for the Government Accountability Office to "investigate immediately" how the report was disclosed.

"The disclosure of information related to nuclear facilities suggests that the current system does not provide adequate review and safeguards," Pelosi said in a statement.

The report, posted on the Government Printing Office Web site, was sent to Congress early last month by President Barack Obama to prepare for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Agency Investigating Posting of Sensitive Report

"While we would have preferred it not to be released," NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera said in a statement today of the report, "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 the agency is investigating the incident and "will take appropriate actions, including ensuring that this will not happen again."

Aftergood said the disclosure of the report was good and that it "belongs in the public domain."

"It sheds light on the enormous scope of U.S. nuclear weapons-related research without disclosing any sensitive technologies," Aftergood said. "It reveals the tremendous size of that enterprise."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original article here.


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