Failing security at the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons manufacturing sites makes them vulnerable to terrorists, according to a congressional watchdog.
The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) “share significant challenges that could affect their ability to maintain physical security at sites,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said.
“For example, security infrastructure, such as fences, alarms and sensors, at many DOE and NNSA facilities is outdated and requires extensive maintenance to ensure proper functioning,” GAO said.
The sites house material such as plutonium and highly-enriched uranium, which are essential for creating nuclear weapons.
“A successful attempt by terrorists or others to steal, sabotage or otherwise gain unauthorized access to special nuclear material could help them develop weapons that could be used against the United States,” GAO continued.
A then-82-year-old nun and two others cut through a DOE facility’s fence in 2012 and spent more than two hours splashing human blood on a building where uranium was processed for weapons.
The DOE Inspector General also “listed safety and security as one of the most significant management challenges the department faces” for 2017, according to GAO.
The congressional watchdog’s investigators also found that DOE and NNSA’s 2014 and 2015 reports to Congress didn’t include required “comprehensive risk and potential vulnerability information. For example, DOE’s 2015 annual security report did not mention whether a vulnerability assessment was conducted at two of its four sites. In general, without complete information on the assessments … it was not always possible to determine the basis for the site security certification.”
The DOE and NNSA’s reports to Congress were regularly late, being submitted months after their deadlines.
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