By JAMES W. BROSNAN
Scripps Howard News Service
November 04, 2005
The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that the last of the special nuclear material that could be used for nuclear bombs has been removed from the lab's Technical Area 18 five years after the move was ordered by then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
"I'm glad it finally happened, as I directed," said Richardson, now the governor of New Mexico.
Mock terrorist attacks in 1997 and 2000 showed the vulnerability of TA-18, according to Energy Department documents obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a watchdog group.
In the first mock assault, Army Special Forces used an ordinary garden cart to steal more than 200 pounds of nuclear materials, according to POGO. In October 2000, mock terrorists again gained access to nuclear weapons-grade material, the group said.
"The Department of Energy should be congratulated for finally getting the job done at TA-18, five years after it was first ordered," said POGO spokeswoman Beth Daley. She added the department should now move quickly to consolidate all the weapons-grade material at one site, as several reports have recommended.
More than half the material went to the department's Nevada Test Site. Some also went to the Y-12 complex at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the more secure TA-55 facility at Los Alamos, but eventually the TA-55 material will go to Nevada too, according to the government.
The first nuclear material was shipped out of the lab in September 2004.
National Nuclear Security Administrator Linton Brooks said the relocation was completed less than a month after the original completion date despite a seven-month stand-down at Los Alamos over security and safety problems.
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