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Secret US List of Civil Nuclear Sites Released 167

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-harm-no-foul-right dept.
eldavojohn writes "Someone accidentally released a 266-page report on hundreds of sites in the US for stockpiling and storing hazardous nuclear materials for civilian use. While some ex-officials and experts don't find it to be a serious breach, the Federation of American Scientists are calling it a 'a one-stop shop for information on US nuclear programs.' The document contains information about Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia, and opinions seem to be split on whether it's a harmless list or terrorist risk. One thing is for sure: it was taken down after the New York Times inquired to the Government Accountability Office about it."
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Secret US List of Civil Nuclear Sites Released

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  • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:33AM (#28194773) Journal

    Now nobody will ever be able to find it ;)

    • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:38AM (#28194871) Homepage Journal
      Oh, well. At least they still have Google Earth [techchuck.com] to tell them, "Hey, terrorists, don't look here. There's nothing sekrit about our blurred base, move along."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Obama_IAEA_nuclear_sites_declaration_for_the_United_States%2C_draft%2C_267_pages%2C_5_May_2009

  • jesus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ilblissli (1480165) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:35AM (#28194813) Homepage Journal
    how in the hell have there been so many serious leaks like this recently? why is no one being held accountable?
    • Re:jesus (Score:4, Interesting)

      by notarockstar1979 (1521239) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:04AM (#28196023) Journal
      I can only answer one of those. There are so many serious leaks because people aren't being held accountable. Hang someone in the public square for it (figuratively) and make an example of them. Others will secure their data pretty quickly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sillybilly (668960)
      Some people in the Dept of Fatherland Security are really bored, because there is not enough action, and it's hard for them to justify their jobs. They can't find people skilled enough to build a bomb, who can be motivated or pissed off enough to do so, even with superhuman effort on their part. People who are smart enough simply won't do it. Because if they did that would be the ultimate excuse to take all your freedoms away, because the antiterrorism message today is falling on deaf ears, and people
  • "for civilian use" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjh31 (1372867) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:36AM (#28194835) Homepage
    there is a huge difference between nuclear material for civilian use, and weapons grade stuff. Even if some terrorists were able to get a-hold of civilian nuclear material they probably wouldnt be able to make a nuke. Having said that, a dirty bomb requires no expertese atall
    • I just loved the 3 sites mentioned in the summary did anyone not know they were in the Nuclear industry??? You are correct though even if they did get their hands on Civilian Nuclear materials (Even the top end stuff) they wouldn't be able to make anything more than a dirty bomb. One quibble on that front though many of these facilities also produce Nuclear materials for the military. I'm sure they are only ever stored in small quantities before being shipped off somewhere that's actually secret i.e. not
      • by vivaoporto (1064484) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @10:18AM (#28195385)
        The point of terrorism is to create terror, not necessarily by killing people or destroying large infrastructures. A single attack on a civilian nuclear facility, even if it didn't destroy or damage anything sensitive, could be enough to fuel the opponents of nuclear power and set the nuclear energy industry on the USA 50 more years back.
        • Agreed although I'm sure it would be back to normal once people had forgotten about it. I mean it's not like people have stopped building ridiculously tall buildings is it. And airport security seems to be there more for show than any kind of serious deterrent.
          • by vivaoporto (1064484) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @10:28AM (#28195531)

            although I'm sure it would be back to normal once people had forgotten about it.

            Not really. The Three Mile Island accident [wikipedia.org] was a mild, harmless incident in a nuclear energy facility but it is still used by nuclear energy opponents to denounce the "harms and perils" of the nuclear power.

            • True some important safety legislation came out of that though. Lets face it there were issues with the design which led to a catastrophic failure. Nothing like as bad as Chernobyl but then the Russians are still building fission reactors oooh and selling them to Iran. The people who point out 3 mile island as why nuclear is really dangerous are of the same mob as the people who want to close down the LHC because it might attract the attention of the Mutant Stellar Goat.
              • The people who point out 3 mile island as why nuclear is really dangerous are of the same mob as the people who want to close down the LHC because it might attract the attention of the Mutant Stellar Goat.

                No, you are absolutely wrong. The Three Mile Island incident has clearly shown that you can actually lose control over your reactor, and that this can cause a real accident. I do not think that you can find any scientist who will deny this. On the other hand, the black hole rhetoric of the LHC critics is all but scientific.

                • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:13PM (#28197021) Journal

                  Three mile island was a design failure that has been addressed and fixed. The coolant leak which resulted in low coolant causing resulted in the wrong procedures being implemented and the suspect of faulty sensors. We now measure coolant levels not only in the feed, but in transition through the piping before and after the reactor. There are backup coolant lines to boot.

                  The entire issue that was behind TMI has been addresses and implemented into all other facilities and the type of incident has never been repeated.

                  I think the big picture is that once they realized the sensors wasn't at fault and the problem was a lack of coolant verses ineffective coolant-bad readings, figured out a plan, vented for safety and enacted the plan to control the reactor, the biggest problem was the lack of ability to evacuate the surrounding and potentially effected population. Roads were jammed, many people had no immediate transportation and the traffic problems was making it difficult to get buses into the area. The Three mile Island accidence is pretty much impossible to happen again, but it showed how impossible it was to protect the people at the same time.

                  • by paeanblack (191171) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:54PM (#28197665)

                    Three mile island was a design failure that has been addressed and fixed. The coolant leak which resulted in low coolant causing resulted in the wrong procedures being implemented and the suspect of faulty sensors. We now measure coolant levels not only in the feed, but in transition through the piping before and after the reactor. There are backup coolant lines to boot.

                    There will be another Three Mile Island-scale accident in the future
                    There will be another Exxon Valdez
                    There will be another Cleveland East
                    There will be another Tay Bridge, Tacoma Narrows, and Hyatt Regency
                    There will be another Bhopal
                    There will be another Tenerife, Saudia Tristar, and Aloha 243
                    There will be another St Francis Dam
                    There will be another Titanic

                    There will be another Chernobyl

                    Industrial/Engineering/Transportation disasters will continue to happen in every industry. Nuclear power is not immune.

                    However, arguing against nuclear power on that basis alone is like arguing against bridges and airplanes because they collapse and crash and kill people.

                    I think the big picture is that once they realized the sensors wasn't at fault and the problem was a lack of coolant verses ineffective coolant-bad readings, figured out a plan, vented for safety and enacted the plan to control the reactor, the biggest problem was the lack of ability to evacuate the surrounding and potentially effected population.

                    All of the disasters above have a commonality: people making decisions on incomplete information, because of the malfunction/poor maintenance of sensors/simple parts or the system entering an unanticipated state. Most of the time that this happens, people make the right decision, and the public doesn't hear about it. Sometimes the wrong decisions are made and people die.

                    The Three mile Island accidence is pretty much impossible to happen again

                    The exact same confluence of events that caused TMI will happen again and again. The technology will be different, but the people will be the same. The way to extend the intervals between major disasters is not be studying where the technology went wrong, but where the people went wrong. We'll never build another TMI-design reactor again, so the technical details are moot.

                    • I could not agree more with you. You can learn from disasters, but there is no such technology that can prevent disasters completely.

                      What you can do, is trying to reduce complexity from technology that is potentially dangerous. This and trying to get more direct information instead of indirect information (e.g. being able to actually see the water in the TMI case would have prevented that the incident went into out of control). Complexity, dependencies, and indirections greatly increases the likelihood t

                    • by sumdumass (711423)

                      The three mile island incident happened because a stuck valve ended up restricting or losing coolant and the result was something that indicated another situation entirely. This same situation used to be the downfall of cars too and the fix was pretty much the same.

                      In the cars, there was simply a temperature gauge that measured coolant temp. when the coolant was missing, it wouldn't show the engine over heating and you didn't know anything was wrong until damage started happening. Now they put coolant level

                    • SDM,

                      I admire your effort and appreciate the apparent pro-nuclear stance. But please check out the NRC Fact Sheet [nrc.gov] on TMI Unit 2 (Unit 1 is doing just fine, thanks) for more precise details on the cause and sequence of events for the accident. You'll find some useful facts that will correct some of your misconceptions about the contributing factors and root causes of the event.

                      In my opinion, the most dominant root cause was inadequate operator training. The stuck-open primary valve (PORV) was misdia
                  • I thought the 3 mile incident was caused by someone falling asleep at the controls and knocking them over. Of course that's not the official wording, but what if "terrorists" feed you some time delayed release sleeping pill or better yet, a hallucinogen. If you were a control operator, you might all of a sudden see the knobs rotate in all kinds of directions, with you trying to compensate.

                    You think the Gods of Olympus, or the powers that be today, don't get bored sometimes and play with real people's live
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @10:54AM (#28195897)

          set the nuclear energy industry on the USA 50 more years back

          You mean we'd start building reactors again?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dave420 (699308)
          The point of terrorism is to coerce people, pure and simple. Nothing more, nothing less. The method of terrorism, however, are as you stated - by using violence or the threat of violence.
        • by toQDuj (806112)

          [...] could be enough to fuel the opponents of nuclear power [...]

          Woah! That's worth exploiting, don't you think?

    • by dubiago (841235) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @10:17AM (#28195369)
      There were some pretty hefty reassurances during the Clinton Administration about the nature of nuclear proliferation when they gave North Korea nuclear reactors; they'd never make nuclear weapons as a result of having the reactors. Flash forward to a week ago, and they've detonated a ~20KT nuclear device. Some of this may just be the government playing C.Y.A., and flashing a "Don't Panic" sign. And, as you point out, dirty bombs aren't that hard to make. They may not have the bang that their fission/fusion cousins have, but they'll certainly make you miserable.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Dirty bombs are just too cumbersome. Radiation levels on that stuff are just way to high for some lunatic's bomb engineer to handle, are hard to transport and easily detectable.
        • by noundi (1044080)
          Pack the device inside a van holding a sturdy led crate. If you went through the trouble of finding enough radioactive material, the latter is just small potato. I agree though, it's no easy task, but the problem remains to be finding radioactive material to begin with, the rest are just small obstacles.
      • by Weezul (52464)

        Dirty bombs are a joke. All the radiation goes away after some basic clean up. I suspect the dirty bomb was invented by the CIA to trick the jihadis.

        A better plan is just get untrained jihadis to hide the shit all over NYC, like the chairs in cinemas, stoves of fancy restaurants, the cart of some guy selling pizza on the street, shove it down the pipes in hotels, stick it up the ass of a police horse, etc. You then wait 6 months and call the press. A few people have actually been mildly irritated by the

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Qzukk (229616)

      Having said that, a dirty bomb requires no expertese atall

      Having said that, a dirty bomb requires nothing more than a few dozen smoke detectors, and if They didn't want to pay for it, the wal-mart down the street almost certainly has lower security than any of the facilities listed.

      "The List" doesn't tell most people anything they couldn't already find out themselves if they wanted to (oh look, I can buy this stuff online [unitednuclear.com]).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vlm (69642)

        Having said that, a dirty bomb requires nothing more than a few dozen smoke detectors,

        No need for that, a granite countertop will do. Many granites are quite strongly radioactive compared to background radiation and are easily detectable using off the shelf geiger counters.

        Alpha emitter smoke detectors will not work. Alphas are great for smoke detectors, after all, smoke isn't very dense, so there is a huge signal difference between "clean" and "smokey" air. But that makes it too hard to detect from far away, like more than a foot or so. Wave a cheap beta/gamma-only counter a couple feet

      • by Reziac (43301) *

        Or go out into the California desert and mine your own. No one will notice.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by richard.cs (1062366)

      While it's defiantly much harder to make a bomb from civilian nuclear material it's still possible and I'd guess a few skilled engineers (with no regard for their long-term health) could make one in less than 6 months. Spent nuclear fuel contains plutonium which is far easier to separate than the different isotopes of uranium as it can be done by chemical means. The plutonium would be heavily contaminated with Pu-240 which would cause some, not insurmountable, problems.

      Implosion devices are out since they'r

    • by Boronx (228853)

      I dirty bomb requires significant expertise if you want to avoid being killed transporting the bomb. Imagine material so hot that its mere radioactivity could endanger a wide area, then concentrate it into the size of a bomb. Plus, dirty bombs are very easy to detect.

      • by mpe (36238)
        I dirty bomb requires significant expertise if you want to avoid being killed transporting the bomb. Imagine material so hot that its mere radioactivity could endanger a wide area, then concentrate it into the size of a bomb. Plus, dirty bombs are very easy to detect.

        Alpha emitters are the most harmful it ingested. They are also the easiest to shield. A cardboard box would probably do the trick. If you could get hold of the right materials a "dirty bomb" could equate to a moderatly sized firework.
  • Not secret! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:38AM (#28194869)

    Geez person writing the submission. RTFM. The list was not "secret". The guy clearly says that the list was only "sensitive" and could have been compiled from various public sources. He also clearly says that the breach was more embarrassing than a security problem.

  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eddy Luten (1166889) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:39AM (#28194881)
    Since there's no link in TFA, here it is on WikiLeaks [wikileaks.org].
  • Scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Peteyo311 (1555249) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @09:40AM (#28194903)
    I am I the only one that thinks this is a very odd list to have "accidentally" released?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Yes, Obama accidentally the document.

      Here is the document blurb:

      To the Congress of the United States:
      I transmit herewith a list of the sites, locations, facilities, and activities
      in the United States that I intend to declare to the International
      Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), under the Protocol Additional
      to the Agreement between the United States of America and
      the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of
      Safeguards in the United States of America, with Annexes, signed
      at Vienna on June 12, 1998

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Most important part:

        "Sensitive but Unclassified"

        Atom experts say it is not such a big deal as the information revealed was already roughly known.
        Source: My local news website.

        It was a draft for the IAEA (International Atom Energy Agency).

      • Re:Scary (Score:5, Informative)

        by Speare (84249) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:01PM (#28196867) Homepage Journal
        The document was properly marked with "sensitive" flags, and the Government Printing Office posted it in error. GPO is part of the Legislative Branch, staffed by career civil servants, not political appointees. So saying that Obama's administration released it to the public is quite a stretch.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by skeeto (1138903)

        Yes, Obama accidentally the document.

        Did he accidentally the whole thing?

  • say the list was kept perfectly secret. as if no one who intends harm couldn't ferret out where the sites are. its not as if the sites are very mobile, most have been there for decades

    and none of the material is easily weaponized. well, you could build a dirty bomb. but if you were building a dirty bomb, it would be easier to shop used medical equipment. perhaps from outside the country. i'm sure you could find some old radiology equipment in latin america and sneak it over the mexican border undetected. line it with lead and drive it in. pack it with some dynamite in a city center: boom, instant radioactive times square

    finally, even if the sites were kept secret, they still need to be guarded. that's the real safeguard

    although the list does allow those who intend to do harm confirmation of sites, and an ability to triage which is easier than another to attempt to breach

    • by jimicus (737525)

      Have to be pretty f*cking old radiology equipment, as the last cobalt machines probably went out of production something like 30 years ago. Today they generate X-rays electrically.

      • radiotherapy for cancer, markers/indicators in various diagnostic tests, positron emission tomography, etc.

        of course a lot of these sources are extremely dilute, or have a very short half life. the dilution problem can be solved by a committed asshole, and there are also plenty of health care radioactivity uses that do not involve short lived isotopes

        • by squizzar (1031726)

          There are a few cases where machines like this have escaped into the wild and caused problems. I'm sure I read one recently where a fairly strong radioactive source used for radiotherapy had been left in a disused hospital and taken by someone. See also people selling bits of RTGs for scrap, people dumping industrial radiation sources in scrapyards (hey, that was on House!) etc. etc. Lots of nasty nukular material out there without any need to go near a nuclear 'facility'

          • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi [wikipedia.org]ânia_accident

            link is from another commenter in this same thread. one of the worst nuclear disasters ever. note: link may not work because it contains portuguese characters and fucking slashdot doesn't use unicode encoding yet. welcome to 1994. follow the link and go to "search for..." and wikipedia will resolve it to the right article

            as for house: i remember that episode. ll cool jay was the actor and he found a cool piece of metal in the trashyard he worked and hung it

        • by jimicus (737525)

          It was the cancer treatment machines I was referring to. They generally produce X-rays as well, albeit at a substantially higher power than the ones used for diagnostic purposes.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      Wouldn't it make more sense to disperse the radioactive material without a large explosion causing people to notice something's going on? The Goiânia accident [wikipedia.org] is a good example of how people spread radiation without even knowing something dangerous was going on. That way you'd have people unwittingly spreading the radiation all over the place, and by the time someone figured out what was going on, it'd be too late - the amount of contamination would be off the chart.
  • If a clandestine organization has the funds, logistics, and operatives to carry out an attack on these facilities, they already know about them.

    Who didn't know about los alamos, livermore, or sandia?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642)

      Or any hospital with a radiology department, or any college offering a nuclear energy engineering degree, etc.

      What's actually going on is a battle inside the government over how to excuse our defenses using two diametrically opposed strategies. Its good to see a failure of cooperation in the government, that gives some hope to the citizens.

      One govt spokes-clown talks up inadequate defenses by making fun of the opposition. The idea is to compare the opposition to a bad mork and mindy episode or some other

      • by Reziac (43301) *

        [tightening my tinfoil hat]

        Or they generate failures to demonstrate the need for tighter security measures on the citizenry...

  • Civil Nuclear Sites? (Score:5, Informative)

    by vampire_baozi (1270720) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @10:09AM (#28195259)

    As the Times article pointed out, and from the looks of the PDF, most of this stuff was public domain already. All they did was assemble it into a nice condensed form for the IAEA. While documents that aren't supposed to be getting released getting released is clearly a process failure, this one doesn't seem particularly serious. On the scale of data leakages, far less harmful than the British government's loss of data discs containing personal information.

    Given that most of the data was already public domain, beyond knowing specifically where the stuff is, what is new here? Figure out where the publication process went wrong, and how it got approved, and then take steps to fix the problem. Gov't snafu's are par for the course, and givin it was a civil report for the IAEA, looks like a minor leak if that.

    I hardly forsee people trying to make dirty bombs from this stuff. As WikiLeaks notes, this information is far more useful to environmentalists than terrorists or foreign governments (to whom we're handing the info anyway via IAEA).

  • hey guys... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dramacrat (1052126) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#28195423)
    I accidentally the whole 266-page report. Is that dangerous?
  • Jack Bauer released the list as a ploy to lure the terrorists in...
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:21AM (#28196289) Journal
    I always wondered how Luke figured out where the secret entrance to the nuclear reactor providing power to the shield to the Death Star during construction. Now there is a plausible scenario how he got it.
  • by Joebert (946227) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#28196897) Homepage

    Someone accidentally released a 266-page report on hundreds of sites in the US for stockpiling and storing hazardous nuclear materials for civilian use.

    I think the real problem here is that there are nuclear materials being stockpiled for civilian use !

    • I don't know how you think radioisotope therapy, radioisotope tagging, smoke detectors, and such work. But they all involving 'stockpiling' nuclear materials.
  • Not only are most of those places well known, there are even tours. There's a nostalgic interest in nuclear tourism [nuclearvacation.com], visiting the interesting Cold War spots.

  • Secret US List of Civil War Nuclear Sites Released

    ---

    Abraham Lincoln scowled and told his generals, "I don't care if it will give us a quick victory to nuke Atlanta. I will not condone the use of nuclear weapons on the continent!"

  • by FirstOne (193462) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @01:42PM (#28198413) Homepage

    A quick scan of the .pdf file indicates..

    Prototype Sodium cooled Fast reactor is wayyy off in the distant future 2020-2030 depending on funding. (Joint project with France and Japan.)

    No projects involving thorium are on the drawing board.
    A couple of projects involving reprocessing spent fuel.

    That indicates that Nuclear power industry will likely be SOL by the end of the century, as the higher grade U-ore depsoits are mined out.
         

  • Whew... at least only the list was secret and not the nuclear sites. That would have been embarrassing!

  • Apparently even though something like this makes you cringe, it has been dubbed as not really that critical in nature, and even though
    you would have at the most materials to make a dirty bomb, it would take too much effort to counter all the security in place, as well as the motion activated satellite images of surroundings, leading you to know about an intrusion way before it is a problem.
    Usually, the MIB answer these calls, and they are usually very quick to intercept.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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