Bush Relaxes Safety at Nuke Facilities

The Bush administration has a new plan to waive some safety standards at federal nuclear facilities. The administration apparently didn’t like being directed by Congress in 2002 to strictly enforce safety standards at the nuke sites — though, in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, you might have thought such a step would be a no-brainer. In an effort to increase “flexibility” (gotta love that euphemism), the Department of Energy recently proposed to enforce only safety plans written by contractors. Protests were swiftly lodged by members of Congress from both parties, the head of a DOE advisory board on safety, and nuclear watchdog groups. In other news unlikely to help you sleep at night, a report released Monday by the DOE inspector general reveals that security guards at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. — the country’s leading nuclear storehouse — have been cheating on anti-terrorism drills, perhaps for as long as 20 years. Apparently the guards were given computer models of the drills before they took place. Peter Stockton, a senior investigator at the Project on Government Oversight, concluded, “It calls into question whether these sites can be protected or not.”