TOPICS > Science

List of U.S. Nuclear Sites Mistakenly Released on Web

BY Admin  June 3, 2009 at 2:15 PM EST

Los Alamos National Laboratory ; U.S. government

The 266-page document, categorized as sensitive but unclassified, was mistakenly released online Monday by the Government Printing Office. It was intended as a draft declaration of nuclear facilities to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and includes maps of the locations of fuel for nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration said the posting did not compromise national security because most of the information was already publicly available through other sources. However one facility listed in the document, a uranium storage facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Y-12 facility in Tennesseeis a concern, according to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The facility holds large quantities of highly enriched uranium, which if obtained can be used to create a nuclear weapon.

That’s of great concern,” Chu told the Associated Press in reference to the site. “We will be looking hard and making sure physical security of those sites (at Y-12) is sufficient to prevent eco-terrorists and others getting hold of that material.”

The report does not include any details about military sites, but lists many details about the nation’s three nuclear weapons laboratories – Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia.

The publication of the list was first reported Monday in an online secrecy newsletter published by Steven Aftergood, a security expert. It was available on the Government Printing Office’s Web site on May 22, according to Aftergood, reported the Wall Street Journal, but after media inquiries it was pulled off the site Tuesday.

“It is probably not that dangerous, but it is a violation of the law,” David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector and president the Institute for Science and International Security told the Washington Post. “You don’t want this information out there, any more than you would want a thief to know the location of a vault in your house.”

Questions remain about why the report made it onto the site. President Obama sent the document to Congress on May 5, and the Government Printing Office then posted the draft.

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.”

President Obama had ordered the report for the IAEA in an effort to encourage other nations, such as Iran, to submit similar information of nuclear activities.