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February 7, 2013
In November 2012, the Project On Government Oversight learned that former Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu asked three former senior government officials to review physical security at all U.S. nuclear weapons facilities and individually write a letter with their findings and recommendations for security improvements.
After learning of this latest security commission, POGO filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the letters filled with security recommendations from these experts.
All reports, letters, or other correspondence between former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Meserve, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald Alston, and retired Lockheed martin CEO Norm Augustine to or from Secretary Chu from January 2011 to the present. Specifically, anything related to the break-in at the Y12 facility and DOE’s model for protecting nuclear materials across the weapons complex.
On January 18, a DOE response informed POGO that the request was assigned to the Office of the Executive Secretariat who searched the Electronic Document Online Correspondence and Concurrence System, which tracks all formal correspondence. This search did not yield any results, but the Executive Secretariat would continue to look for any documents.
Just seven days later, POGO heard from the DOE again: “A search of Secretary Chu’s emails was conducted, for communications with the individuals referenced in your request. That search produced no responsive documents.”
Although POGO was able to obtain the letters through other avenues, it is rather remarkable that such a thorough search of Secretary Chu’s correspondence did not result in a single mention of this security commission or the reports that had been sent to him on December 6, 2012.
As these letters so clearly highlight, we are at a tipping point. Major changes must be made to the way the DOE and the NNSA approach physical security of our nuclear weapons, as demonstrated by the recent security failure at the Y-12 complex that allowed three protestors within feet of 300-400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium. It is POGO’s hope that the information in these letters will ensure immediate steps are taken to improve the security of the nuclear weapons complex.
Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia works on safety and security of nuclear weapons and power facilities, foreign lobbying and influence, and works with Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers.
Topics: Open Government
Authors: Lydia Dennett
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