published Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Gov’t posts sensitive list of US nuclear sites

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government accidentally posted on the Internet a list of government and civilian nuclear facilities and their activities in the United States, but a U.S. official said Wednesday the posting included no information that compromised national security.

The 266-page document was published on May 6 as a transmission from President Barack Obama to Congress. According to the document, the list was required by law and will be provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Some of the pages are marked “highly confidential safeguards sensitive.”

Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the document had been reviewed by a number of U.S. agencies and that disclosure of the information did not jeopardize national security. He said the document is part of an agreement on nuclear material inspection under the IAEA’s nuclear nonproliferation effort.

“While we would have preferred it not be released, 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 in a statement.

An Energy Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly, said none of the sites on the list are directly part of the government’s nuclear weapons infrastructure.

Included in the report, however, are details on a storage facility for highly enriched uranium at the Y-12 complex at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and some sites at the Energy Department’s Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, this official acknowledged.

The publication of the list was first reported in an online secrecy newsletter Monday. The document had been posted on the Government Printing Office Web site, but has since been removed from that site.

In a statement, the Government Printing Office said Wednesday: “Upon being informed about potential sensitive nature of the attachment in this document, the Public Printer of the United States removed it from GPO’s Web site pending further review. After consulting with the White House and Congress, it was determined that the document, including sensitive attachment, should be permanently removed from the Web site.”

The GPO said it processes and produces approximately 160 House documents during the two-year congressional cycle, and the list was received by the agency in the normal process and produced under routine operating procedures.

The document includes both government and civilian nuclear facilities, all of which have various levels of security, including details and location of nation’s 103 commercial nuclear power reactors, information readily available from various sources.

The document details the location of the nuclear sites and what is being done there.

For instance, there are nuclear reactors at the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pa. This facility is currently working on research into what happens when there are accidents with the nuclear reactors. The project started in 2006 and is expected to end in 2012, according to the document.

There are “zero” national security implications to the publication of this document, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. Aftergood found the document on the GPO Web site and highlighted it in his online bulletin.

“I regret that some people are painting it as a roadmap for terrorists because that’s not what it is,” Aftergood said.

“This is not a disclosure of sensitive nuclear technologies or of facility security procedures. It is simply a listing of the numerous nuclear research sites and the programs that are under way,” Aftergood said. “And so it poses no security threat whatsoever.”

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