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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 54, February 2001

DOE Issues Long-Term Stewardship Report, Extends UC Lab Contract

As reported in the last issue, on January 19 the Department of Energy (DOE) released a major study on the environmental and maintenance requirements of the vast US nuclear weapons complex. In a statement accompanying the publication of Report to Congress: Long-Term Stewardship - available on the Internet at http://www.em.doe.gov - the Department noted:

"[The study] identifies the long-term stewardship activities anticipated by the Department at as many as 128 sites by the year 2006. DOE already performs long-term stewardship activities at 34 sites that have been cleaned up and closed. 'The report provides a plan for ensuring the safety of DOE sites long after the clean-up has been completed,' said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. 'It also serves as a foundation for determining the science and technology requirements for meeting our long-term stewardship obligations at DOE sites.' While the primary focus of the report covers the period from now through the year 2006, the report provides a preliminary glimpse of what DOE's long-term stewardship obligations may be up to the year 2070."

Also on January 19, the continuing responsibility of the University of California (UC) for managing the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory was extending for a further three years. The renewal of the contract had been cast into doubt by strong criticism of UC's handling of security arrangements at the labs. According to outgoing Energy Secretary Richardson: "This is a significant move forward for the Department, the defence labs and for national security. The work that these labs perform is vital to the nation and, with the provisions of these new contracts, the labs will receive the support and assistance they need to succeed." In the words of a summary provided by the Department, the "contract restructuring will require UC to implement urgently needed management improvements and bring about the changes needed to avoid the types of problems such as safety, security and project management lapses that have been encountered in the past. The additional contract extension of three years to September 30, 2005 is provided to stabilize the essential scientific and technical workforce and allow sufficient time to demonstrate successful implementation of these major improvements. The new contracts are valued at more than $2 billion."

On January 18, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced the conclusion of investigations into the temporary loss of two computer hard drives, said to contain sensitive information, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). A relieved Energy Secretary announced that the FBI "found no evidence of outside involvement in the disappearance of the hard drives" and no evidence of espionage inside the lab. According to John Gordon, Under Secretary and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA): "Conclusion of the FBI investigation enables LANL to fully focus on its vitally important national security mission..."

The hard drives were discovered to be missing in early May, although senior lab officials were not notified of their disappearance until June 1. The drives were finally located within the lab on June 16.

Reports: UC will keep running US nuke labs, Associated Press, January 18; FBI ends Los Alamos spy probe, Associated Press, January 18; FBI concludes investigation of hard drive incident at Los Alamos, US Energy Department Press Release R-01-021, January 18; Energy Department issues report to Congress on long-term stewardship of nuclear weapons complex, US Energy Department Press Release R-01-025, January 19; Energy Department and University of California extend management contracts for defense labs, US Energy Department Press Release R-01-023, January 19.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.