Tenn. Nuclear Fuel Problems Kept Secret
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post/Associated Press
Posted: September 6th, 2007
A three-year veil of secrecy in the name of national security was used to keep the public in the dark about the handling of highly enriched uranium at a nuclear fuel processing plant -- including a leak that could have caused a deadly, uncontrolled nuclear reaction. The leak turned out to be one of nine violations or test failures since 2005 at privately owned Nuclear Fuel Services Inc., a longtime supplier of fuel to the U.S. Navy's nuclear fleet. The public was never told about the problems when they happened. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed them for the first time last month when it released an order demanding improvements at the company, but no fine. In 2004, the government became so concerned about releasing nuclear secrets that the commission removed more than 1,740 documents from its public archive -- even some that apparently involved basic safety violations at the company. Environmental activists are still suspicious of the belated revelations and may challenge the commission's decision not to fine Nuclear Fuel Services for the safety violations. "That party is not over -- the full story of what is going on up there," said Ann Harris, a member of the Sierra Club's national nuclear task force. While reviewing the commission's public Web page in 2004, the Department of Energy's Office of Naval Reactors found what it considered protected information about Nuclear Fuel Service's work for the Navy. The commission responded by sealing every document related to Nuclear Fuel Services. Under the policy, all the documents were stamped "Official Use Only," including papers about the policy itself and more than 1,740 documents from the commission's public archive.