Sloppy Oversight of Classified Nuclear Weapons Drawings and Parts

Tuesday, April 08, 2014
W76 warhead launched from Trident II

The National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) was created 15 years ago by Congress after lawmakers decided the Department of Energy (DOE) was failing to protect the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons. NNSA, a semiautonomous DOE agency, was expected to do a better job of securing nuclear secrets, among other things.

 

But a new government audit says the NNSA has put the nuclear arms stockpile at risk due to poor oversight and other failings.

 

The audit reported that “unauthorized system access and changes to weapons drawings, incomplete engineering authorizations and inadequate assessments of vendor-supplied parts may ultimately increase costs and could negatively impact the reliability and safety of U.S. nuclear weapons.”

 

The report said mistakes included unauthorized access to systems, the use of the wrong parts and components, and a failure to maintain records.

 

One big concern, DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman’s office found, is that the NNSA and the nuclear facilities it oversees haven’t made the maintenance of nuclear weapons control information, known as “configuration management,” a priority for many years.

 

At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, one of the original nuclear weapons laboratories, personnel applied parts for the W76 warhead that did not conform to design specifications and failed to ensure that needed corrective actions to such parts were taken and were effective, according to the audit.

 

The W76, developed in the 1970s, is the primary nuclear warhead for Trident II (D5) submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

 

At another key New Mexico research facility, Sandia National Laboratories, officials “responsible for neutron generator components could not locate 16 of the 36 (44%) of the neutron generator drawings,” the audit said. “We were not able to do so either as part of our audit.”

 

This kind of mistake resulted in a one-year delay of component production that cost the federal government between $20 million and $25 million “to correct problems associated with the use of non-conforming parts,” the report states.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

 

To Learn More:

Audit Finds Sloppy Oversight of Nuclear Weapons (by Richard Sisk, Military.com)

Classified Nuclear Weapon Drawings Missing at Labs (by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News)

National Nuclear Security Administration Nuclear Weapons Systems Configuration Management (Department of Energy, Inspector General)

Nuclear Facilities Agency Releases Weapons Site Report…after being Sued (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

 

Comments

Loraine 2 years ago
The government agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), responsible for securing the nation’s nuclear weapons—and the facilities where they are housed—has failed miserably. This is obviously detrimental to national security and affects everyone who lives in this country. USA has always been concerned about other country's safety and security issues while letting its own at loose ends thus making it a credible threat for other states and its own citizens.

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