House panel gets conflicting reports on
plutonium, uranium headed to test site
By Tony Batt
Las Vegas Review
WASHINGTON A House subcommittee chairman who has pushed
for the transfer of two tons of weapons-grade nuclear materials
from New Mexico to the Nevada Test Site heard conflicting
reports Tuesday on how much of the plutonium and highly enriched
uranium would be moved.
Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., opened the hearing of the House
Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight by saying he
was pleased by the March 31 announcement that all of the nuclear
material from Technical Area 18 at the Los Alamos National
Laboratory would be moved to the test site.
The Device Assembly Facility, a secure facility about 85
miles northwest of Las Vegas, would store the nuclear materials.
They are considered accessible to terrorists at their location
in New Mexico.
Deputy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow testified the move would
start later this year and would include "all Category
I and II special nuclear material," designations for
plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
But Danielle Brian, the executive director of a nonprofit
watchdog group called the Project on Government Oversight,
told Greenwood the department plans to move only 50 percent
of the nuclear materials.
"Perhaps in closed session you can get a commitment
when, if ever, they intend to move the other 50 percent,"
Brian made the same charge at an April 27 hearing of a House
Government Reform subcommittee.
In that hearing, Linton Brooks, chief of the National Nuclear
Security Administration, which runs the test site and the
Los Alamos lab, disputed Brian's charge and said the department
plans to move all of the nuclear materials.
Greenwood said he understood that the 50 percent to be moved
would include all of the plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
"The 50 percent that would remain at Los Alamos will
not include any Category I or II nuclear material," Greenwood
Brian said she could produce a document showing the material
transferred would include only 50 percent of the plutonium
and highly enriched uranium.
Brian urged Greenwood to seek a commitment from Brooks in
a closed session after Tuesday's hearing to move all of the
nuclear materials to the test site.
"I hope this committee holds NNSA's feet to the fire
until the TA-18 materials are permanently at the Nevada Test
Site," Brian said.