Share This!
Text SizeAAA Share Email

Declaration to NRC: Plutonium Test Assembly Protection Inadequate


In the Matter of


(Plutonium Export License)


Docket No.  110-540



Under penalty of perjury, I, Edwin S. Lyman, declare as follows:

1.  My name is Edwin S. Lyman.  I am a Senior Staff Scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C. 

2.  I am a qualified expert on nuclear safety and safeguards issues.  I hold a PhD, a master of science and a bachelor's degree in physics.  For over ten years, I have conducted research on security and environmental issues associated with the management of nuclear materials and the operation of nuclear power plants. I have published articles in journals and magazines, including The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Science and Global Security.  I have been a member of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) since 1997.  I have testified before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on two occasions.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to brief members of the intelligence community on three occasions regarding nuclear security matters.  A copy of my curriculum vitae, including a list of my publications, is attached.   

3.  NRC regulations for the physical protection of Category I nuclear materials (e.g. more than two kilograms of plutonium) are considerably more stringent than the measures contained in IAEA INFCIRC/225 (Rev. 4).  While this was already the case before the September 11 attacks, the divide between the two standards has grown even wider since NRC imposed Interim Compensatory Measures (ICMs) on Category I facilities in August 2002, and issued Orders requiring permanent physical protection upgrades to Category I fuel cycle facilities in April 2003.

4.  In particular, NRC regulations require that Category I licensees provide an armed response force capable of protecting their facilities from NRC-specified design basis threats (DBTs) of theft and radiological sabotage.  The regulations further require that the ability of Category I armed response forces be tested through regular force-on-force exercises. It is well-recognized in the United States that force-on-force testing is essential to verify that physical protection plans will function as intended to effectively defeat the DBT. 

5.  The Department of Energy also requires similar measures for protection of Category I materials at DOE sites. These include the presence of heavily armed paramilitary protective forces equipped with automatic weapons, night vision equipment, body armor and chemical protective gear.[1]

6.  INFCIRC/225 (Rev. 4), the IAEA's recommended guidelines for national physical protection systems, does not provide any guidelines for the development of design basis threats, other than that they should be based on states' own evaluations.  It neither mandates that Category I facilities deploy armed response forces to defeat teams of armed external attackers, nor requires full-scale performance testing to demonstrate that such facilities can be adequately protected against realistic threats. While it does call for exercises to test physical protection systems and the training and readiness of guards, this provision falls far short of a requirement for rigorous force-on-force testing.  One of the greatest shortcomings of INFCIRC/225 (Rev. 4), however, is its lack of emphasis on internal security. It only recommends that states require "predetermination of the trustworthiness of all individuals permitted unescorted access to nuclear material and facilities." Much more stringent and prescriptive access authorization procedures are clearly needed today to effectively deter the insider threat. 

7.  After the September 11 attacks, both NRC and DOE moved to upgrade physical protection of Category I materials to cope with the increasingly severe terrorist threat. These upgrades included more challenging DBTs, more restrictive access controls, more robust protective force responses, increased levels of performance testing and more rigorous qualification and training standards for armed responders.

8.  In contrast, IAEA INFCIRC/225 (Rev. 4) has not undergone revision since June 1999. Arguably inadequate even before the September 11 attacks, the guidelines are now clearly obsolete and do not reflect what the international community has learned about the magnitude of the nuclear and radiological terrorist threat posed by Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in the last 26 months.

9.  This point has been acknowledged by US government officials. In a meeting of the American Nuclear Society in New Orleans, LA in November 2003, Richard Stratford, Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy Affairs at the US State Department, said (to the best of my recollection) that he favored the development and adoption of a fifth revision of INFCIRC/225, particularly with respect to transportation security.  He said that he had floated this proposal within the U.S. government and had talked to a number of other countries without receiving serious objections, and intended to pursue adoption of his proposal starting in mid-2004. 

10.  The fact that there is interest in the U.S. government in pursuing a new revision of INFCIRC/225 (Rev. 4) is a clear indication that the current standard is inadequate. However, it remains the regulatory standard for NRC approval of foreign physical security measures in considering export of nuclear equipment and material, as stated in 10 CFR §110.44.

11.  In my judgment, the huge disparity in U.S. government requirements for physical protection of Category I nuclear materials between domestic facilities and foreign facilities that receive U.S. exports is irrational and dangerous, particularly in the post-September 11 environment. The United States should seek to ensure that a uniformly high standard of protection is applied for special nuclear materials at all times and in all locations.  Otherwise, the export license request at issue will put at grave risk enough weapon-grade plutonium to make dozens of nuclear bombs.  Theft of this material by terrorists could have catastrophic consequences for the citizens of the United States. 

12.  The United States is planning to pursue a new revision of INFCIRC/225 (Rev. 4) at about the same time that the export of up to 140 kilograms of U.S. weapon-grade plutonium oxide to France on United Kingdom-flagged vessels will take place.  In view of this, it is prudent that NRC anticipate these changes and adopt much more stringent export licensing criteria for the physical protection of this material in international transport and foreign storage than are embodied in the current, pre-September 11 version of INFCIRC/225.  In particular, NRC should require foreign physical protection standards to be even more stringent than U.S. domestic regulations require, given that the vulnerability of this material to theft or sabotage will no doubt be far greater outside of United States territory. This would involve requirements for development of a DBT based on the most current intelligence assessments of the terrorist threat, for the routine deployment of robust, armed paramilitary response forces and for periodic and realistic force-on-force testing of their capabilities.  Also, procedures for access authorization for Category I nuclear materials and facilities must involve much more thorough background investigations than the INFCIRC/225 "trustworthiness" standard would suggest, and should entail a full review of all personnel by law enforcement and intelligence agencies for possible connections to terrorist activities.


Edwin S. Lyman, Ph.D.

November 26, 2003 

[1] U.S. General Accounting Office, Nuclear Security:  DOE Faces Security Challenges in the Post September 11, 2001 Environment, GAO-03-896TNI, June 2003.


Powered by Convio
nonprofit software