Friday, August 20, 2004
Nuclear Data Found Missing From New Mexico
An inventory has found another case of missing data involving nuclear weapons, this time at the Energy Department's regional office in Albuquerque, N.M., the department disclosed Thursday.
The Energy Department said that an "accounting discrepancy" involving three copies of a "controlled removable electronic media" - or CREM - was found at the regional office as part of the nationwide inventory of such devices.
The inventory was ordered a month ago after two CREM data devices were reported missing at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, also in New Mexico. The Albuquerque facility, part of the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, coordinates activities with the Los Alamos weapons lab.
Bryan Wilkes, an NNSA spokesman, said that the inventory discovered three copies of a single CREM unaccounted for. He declined to elaborate further except to say the device contained information involving nuclear weapons.
NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks said that all classified work involving the computer data storage devices has been halted at the Albuquerque office, pending completion of the investigation.
"I am disappointed that we have found another case of lax procedures in protecting classified information," said Brooks in a statement.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on July 23 ordered that work involving CREM - disks or other removable computer storage devices - be halted at all the government's nuclear weapons facilities until inventories of the devices are conducted and new security procedures put in place.
The missing device at the Albuquerque office was discovered as part of that inventory, said Wilkes.
Meanwhile, investigators, despite extensive searches, have yet to find the two CREM devices that were reported missing at the Los Alamos laboratory in the New Mexico mountains 100 miles north of Albuquerque. The investigation into that incident was continuing.
No one was suggesting that the classified information - either at Los Alamos or in the DOE regional office - had been stolen or that the disappearances involved espionage. However, DOE officials have been concerned about lax procedures and security involving the handing of such devices.
"I expect NNSA employees, both federal and contractor, to adhere to the highest standards of performance" when using such data in removable computer devices, said Brooks.
Aside from this latest case, the nationwide CREM inventory review so far has produced no incidents or discrepancies, said Wilkes.
Many of the sites including the Savannah River nuclear facility in South Carolina, the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the Pantex facility in Texas have resumed normal operations, according to the department.
Concerns over security and safety at the nuclear weapons lab came to a head in July, after two computer disks containing classified information were reported missing at the Los Alamos lab. Almost all work at the lab was shut down and 23 employees were suspended as a result of the investigation into the security lapses.
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