Saturday, May 07, 2005

Security Costs Could Shut Some A-Bomb Labs, Experts Warn

Published: May 7, 2005

WASHINGTON, May 6 - The cost to protect materials for nuclear bombs from terrorists is rising so high that the Energy Department will need to close some weapons laboratories, or at least consolidate the weapons fuel that they hold, government officials and outside experts are warning.

Security costs threaten to eat into the budget for building and maintaining warheads, the experts say.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the department re-examined potential threats to the 13 laboratories and other plants across the country where it has what it calls "special nuclear materials," or plutonium and bomb-grade uranium. The department theorized that attackers might not try to steal the material, but rather fabricate a nuclear bomb on the spot and detonate it.


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Physical security costs are driven not by reality of the threat but by the fertile minds of scenario generators sitting in offices in Germantown. They magically impart to terrorists capabilities and prowess that far exceed those of our very best special forces. The word "balderdash" comes to mind.

When it comes to information security, technology is moving faster that the drafters of regulations can write. The final outcome might surprise everyone. The undeniable fact is that the Government will actually have to trust people again. Amazing!
Seems to me we are seeing the end of a long struggle that started when some politicians inspired by Teller and Lawrence decided what America needed was a weapons lab dominated by right thinking types instead of commie liberals.

Ever since the end of the cold war conservatives have never passed up the chance to acuse and savage LANL for every problem, real or imagined.

Whether it is the chance to blame a "Chinese Spy" at Los Alamos for the compromise of data he didn't have, or ignore the arrest of a REAL Chinese Spy who was screwing a top security official at Livermore; the tendency is clear. Los Alamos = BAD, while Livermore is . . . certainly not to be portrayed as less than sterling.

I was amused when the press hardly noticed that the alleged Chinese Spy who had been penetrated, or perhaps more correctly was penetrated by, Livermore security had her charges dropped by the Bush administration. No doubt she will resume her role as a major GOP fund raiser, and a source of allegations against imaginary "spys" at Los Alamos.

With an administration which is waging a war on science, an ideological administration out to set 'right' every ideological issue of the last 80 years, and the mass media controlled by a few corporations, you had better not expect 'blogging' to have more than a local effect.

Like Condi Rice, Nanos has been retired to higher position for his failures, joining others like Bolton and Wolfowitz.

All you have really achieved is ensuring that conservatives will hate LANL even more than they had.
Sorry for the double post folks, I only intended to add a comma.

First ride on this blogging pony.
Strange, I consider myself a conservative and most conservatives up here on the hill view Livermore as representing the Left Coast. BTW Los Alamos County has voted Republican in almost every election since FDR. I agree with you that Los Alamos often serves as a convenient punching bag for politicians of different parties who know nothing of nuclear matters. I think that is because there has never been a National Association for the Prevention of Cruelity and Abuse to Nuclear Scientists (NAPCANS). That of course was before the Age of Blogs and, if the pen indeed is mightier than the sword, our pen might eventually operate at about a 1,000 terabytes per second. That should level the playing field as they say.
Hey 5/7/2005 04:31:46 PM you have made a remarkable discovery. No Member of Congress (MC)would ever kick a dog even if he, she or it didn't like dogs even hated dogs because of the omnipresent Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Where does one join NAPCANS?
"The department theorized that attackers might not try to steal the material, but rather fabricate a nuclear bomb on the spot and detonate it." Thereby killing, if TA-18 is the spot in question, a VAST number of junipers and coyotes.

This quote, the basic accuracy of which is known to anyone associated with the security "issues" at TA-18, is symptomatic of the key problem we have to face as we try to emerge from Nanomanagement: responding to concerns that, to us, seem so misguided as to be downright loony. There are certainly security issues that Los Alamos must confront, and, in general, has successfully confronted. Preventing theft of nuclear materials for use against real targets is one. Preventing theft of weapons design information is another. A third, of no small significance, is securing the information we have regarding potential bad guys via national intelligence programs, so that bad guys don't discover what we know about them and rub out informants, etc.

To my understanding we have confronted these three issues quite successfully, as much so as any other institution in the country. All require continued vigilance, and we don't object to an appropriate level of that. But why on earth worry about the terrorism threat to whoever is downwind of TA-18, and make that the basis of allegations that security is lax? One advantage of our location is that you have to get a loooong way downwind before running into the first city of national size and significance. That's one of the reasons why we are where we are. Yet as long as those *are* the concerns that drive decision makers, we're going to have to deal with their basic irrationality.
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