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Nuclear Weapons in the U.S. Are Vulnerable to Attacks That Would Dwarf Chernobyl

StoryOctober 11, 2001
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When 19 men hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the first major attack onthe continental U.S., a terrifying new tactic was born. People who don’t have the resources to launch a traditionalmilitary attack on the U.S. instead used American technological, economic and military strength against its owncivilian population.

Bioweapons may pose a similar threat. Early reports have emerged that the anthrax strain which has already killed oneperson may have been developed in a lab in Iowa. It was the U.S. that perfected anthrax as a bioweapon in the 1950sand 60s.

And now, the Project on Government Oversight is warning that the federal Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons labsand production facilities are highly vulnerable to attack. According to a new report, the plutonium and uraniumsites have consistently failed mock security tests and leave metropolitan regions like the Bay Area and Denvervulnerable to a nuclear detonation that "would dwarf the impacts of Chernobyl."

In one of the worst illustrations of security breaches, Navy SEALs were able to make a big enough hole in achain-link fence surrounding a Rocky Flats nuclear production facility in Colorado that they were able to "steal"enough plutonium for several bombs. In another, Army commandos walked out of the University of California-managed LosAlamos National Laboratory in New Mexico with a Home Depot garden cart filled with nuclear material.

The report was initiated when more than one dozen whistle-blowers contacted the group with unclassified materialhighlighting their concerns. One of them, Ronald Tim, was the lead analyst for the Department of Energy’s Office ofSafeguards and Security. He says that the DOE repeatedly ignored his warnings, and speculates that it is becausecontractors are paid a substantial bonus, if they receive good security ratings.

We’re going to go to Ronald Tim in a moment, but first, we’re joined by Danielle Brian, who is the executive directorof the Project on Government Oversight.


  • Danielle Brian, executive director, Project on Government Oversight.
  • Ronald Tim, former lead analyst for the Department of Energy’s Office of Safeguards and Security.

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