Security at uranium storage site doesnt meet standards

Security at uranium storage site doesnt meet standards

The U.S. Energy Department cannot meet its own post-Sept. 11 security standards to repel a terrorist force at the Fort Knox of uranium, a facility in Tennessee that stores an estimated 189 metric tons of bomb grade material, agency officials acknowledged.

The material is stored in five masonry and wood frame buildings at the Y-12 facility, a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons infrastructure at the Oak Ridge site near Knoxville.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a part of the Energy Department, is building a secure facility to warehouse the material. It is due to be completed in 2009. Until then, the Energy Department has given itself an “extension,” or waiver, on meeting security requirements at the site.

At risk in an attack is terrorists gaining access to highly enriched uranium and then within minutes constructing a crude but powerful improvised nuclear device, or IND. It is believed such a device could have a yield equal to the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

But Y-12 spokesman Steven Wyatt said the security force could effectively defend the site.

“There are better odds that an asteroid would hit Oak Ridge than the likelihood that terrorists would have the access and time to build and detonate an IND,” Wyatt said.

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