Global Risk

Exceptions to the “No Comment” Rule on Nuclear Weapons

10.09.15 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In response to public inquiries about the location of nuclear weapons, Department of Defense officials are normally supposed to respond: “It is U.S. policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location.”

Remarkably, “This response must be provided even when such location is thought to be known or obvious,” according to a DoD directive that was issued this week.

But there are exceptions to the rule, noted in the directive.

In the case of a nuclear weapons or radiological accident or incident within the United States, DoD personnel “are required to confirm to the general public the presence or absence of nuclear weapons… in the interest of public safety or to reduce or prevent widespread public alarm.”

“Notification of public authorities also is required if the public is, or may be, in danger of radiation exposure or other threats posed by the weapon or its components.”

See Nuclear-Radiological Incident Public Affairs (PA) Guidance, DoD Instruction 5230.16, October 6, 2015.