U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson says he will accept a Republican plan to create a semiautonomous agency to oversee U.S. nuclear weapons labs, test sites, and weapons assembly plants.
The new oversight bodycalled the Agency for Nuclear Stewardshipwill be created in response to claims that security has become lax at U.S. nuclear weapons labs. The Washington Post reported on July 8, 1999, that the new agency is expected to receive quick Congressional and presidential approval. It will be responsible for Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, the Nevada nuclear test site, nuclear materials production, and weapons assembly plants.
Although Richardson previously resisted the proposed agency, the Post reports that he has decided to back it as long as Congress places it under his authority. Richardson says that he is currently searching for a person to fill the position of undersecretary of nuclear stewardship that will be created in conjunction with the new agency. Members of Congress called for the creation of such a position after a report from a special congressional committee showed that China may have stolen nuclear weapons secrets from the United States. China has denied any such espionage.
The Department of Energy has already responded to reports of lax security at the national laboratories by tightening security and implementing a plan to conduct widespread lie-detector tests across personnel at several national laboratories.
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