SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 36
April 14, 2004

THREE MILE ISLAND RECORD DECLASSIFICATION SOUGHT

Rep. Edward J. Markey is pressing government agencies for full and immediate declassification of all records concerning the March 28, 1979 nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island (TMI) now that the 25th anniversary of the event has passed.

"It is in the public interest to disclose all documents related to TMI," wrote Rep. Markey (D-MA) in a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week.

"Numerous members of the communities living near TMI have been attempting to obtain these documents for years in order to ascertain additional details regarding the radiation levels they may have been exposed to," he wrote.

Under the provisions of the prevailing executive order on national security classification, Rep. Markey noted, there are only limited exemptions that would permit the withholding of 25 year old information and these appear to be inapplicable to the TMI case.

Given the safety and security changes that have taken place since the TMI accident, he wrote, "there should be no national or homeland security risk in disclosing any previously classified materials regarding the cause of an accident that occurred 25 years ago."

See Rep. Markey's April 9 letter to the NRC here:

He sent similar letters to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.


CRS ON THE ROBUST NUCLEAR EARTH PENETRATOR

A new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides an update on the pursuit of a new nuclear weapons concept, the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP).

"RNEP is controversial. Supporters argue that it is needed to attack hard and deeply buried targets (such as leadership bunkers or WMD production facilities) in countries of concern, thereby deterring or defeating challenges from such nations; critics assert that RNEP would lower the threshold for use of nuclear weapons and prompt other nations to develop nuclear weapons to deter U.S. attack," according to the CRS report.

See "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Budget Request and Plan, FY2005-FY2009" by Jonathan Medalia, Congressional Research Service, April 9:

Direct public access to CRS reports like this one is not authorized by the U.S. Congress.


DOE RELEASES SUPPRESSED CRITIQUE OF NUCLEAR PROGRAM

An internal critique of the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program was released recently after being withheld for two years on grounds that it was considered "For Official Use Only."

The March 2002 report of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Advisory Committee was finally released last month under the Freedom of Information Act to reporter David Ruppe of Global Security Newswire.

The Department of Energy terminated the NNSA Advisory Committee last year, prompting complaints from Rep. Edward Markey and others that the move diminished independent review of DOE programs.

The report was analyzed in "Energy Department Releases Nuclear Policy Critique" by David Ruppe, Global Security Newswire, April 7:

http://www.nti.org/d_newswire/issues/recent_stories.asp?category=nuclear#BDE43839

The text of the NNSA Advisory Committee report, in three parts (transmittal letter and two subcommittee reports), may be found here:


NRDC VIEWS THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX

The Natural Resources Defense Council has provided its own independent assessment of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

"Despite the end of the Cold War, the Bush administration is spending 12 times more on nuclear weapons research and production than on nonproliferation efforts to retrieve, secure and dispose of nuclear weapons materials worldwide," the NRDC report found.

The new report "focuses on a half-dozen DOE nuclear weapons projects, revealing they are billions of dollars over budget and years behind in meeting their goals."

See "Weaponeers of Waste: A Critical Look at the Bush Administration Energy Department's Nuclear Weapons Complex and the First Decade of Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship" by Christopher E. Paine, April 2004:


PRICE OF NUCLEAR SECRETS PLUMMETING [SATIRE]

"Top-secret information about the design, construction, and delivery of nuclear weapons has never been more affordable than it is today, CIA Director George Tenet announced Monday."

That insight comes from a *satirical* account in The Onion (flagged by CQ Homeland Security).

"We're seeing items like warhead blueprints and uranium enrichment instructions go for a fraction of what they used to cost," Tenet said. "There's never been a better time to snag a deal on low-mass, high-yield weaponry schematics. Countries like Iran and North Korea are finding that it's a real buyer's market."

See "Price of Nuclear Secrets Plummeting," The Onion, April 7:

"Tenet said he expects prices to continue to decline."

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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