NUKES SPREAD, LABS CLAMP DOWN

Both Bush and Kerry said it: the spread of nuclear weapons is the biggest security problem the country faces. And 2004 saw that situation get a whole lot worse, with both Iran and North Korea moving further down the atomic path.Here at home, the nuclear news was a bit better. Plans for new atomic weapons were scrapped by Congress. And the Energy Department finally got serious about security at its nuclear labs -- after a slew of lost classified disks and laser in the eye shamed the bureacracy into acting.m_cloud.jpgPAK NUKE SALES OVERT, GOV'T APPROVEDPakistan's government is trying to portray the sale of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea as the cloak-and-dagger work of a few, isolated rogues. But that's a lie, says Jane's Defense Weekly. Nuclear sales were so out in the open that underlings of Abdul Qadeer Khan -- the father of the Pakistani Bomb -- were handing out glossy brochures advertising their services at a 2000 arms conference.IRAQI URANIUM NOW IN U.S. LABSThe good news: U.S. troops and scientists have taken a heap of radioactive material out of insecure locations in Iraq. The bad news: they may have brought the stuff to one of the most insecure locations here in America.1 YEAR UNTIL IRAN NUKES"Some American analysts warn that there is only a year or so left to stop Iran from achieving nuclear self-sufficiency. After that, they say, the country will have the means to create a nuclear arsenal without outside help, forever altering the Middle East balance of power."NUKE STOCKPILES ON THE RISENo matter what Iran decides to do about its nuclear program, the chances of radioactive material getting into dangerous hands continue to grow.IRAN'S NUKE PAUSE - BAD NEWS?So Iran has apparently stopped enriching uranium for the moment, pressing pause on its nuclear program. Great news, right? Actually, it could hardly be worse, argues Michael Levi, the Brookings Institution's resident atomic authority.NEW NUKE RESEARCH BLOWN UPIt ain't dead, yet. But the Bush administration's push to research and develop new nuclear weapons could be on the verge of flat-lining, after a key Congressional leader moved on Wednesday to eliminate funding for the atomic arms projects.WHAT'S A "BUNKER BUSTER" NUKE?In the debate tonight, Sen. Kerry made an aside about cutting the money to develop a new, "bunker-busting" nuclear weapon. What's he talking about?GUARDS CHEATED NUKE SECURITY DRILLSSecurity guards at the country's leading nuclear storehouse have been cheating during antiterrorism drills -- perhaps for as long as 20 years.NOT AGAIN! LOS ALAMOS LOSES SECRET DISKIt's become a recurring nightmare for managers at the nation's most important nuclear weapons lab: a hard drive or disk, filled with classified information, goes missing. And suddenly, Los Alamos officials, trying to remerge from years of scandal, have a whole lot of explaining to do.SANDIA HAS BUTTER FINGERS, TOOLos Alamos isn't the only weapons lab that can't seem to keep track of its classified disks. Sandia National Laboratories just announced that they, too, are "searching for a missing floppy disk that was marked classified.""AT A MINIMUM, ELECTROCUTION"The heart-warming stories of safety violations from the country's top nuclear weapons lab continue to pile up, like presents under the ol' yuletide tree.LOS ALAMOS SHUT DOWNLos Alamos National Laboratory director Pete Nanos shut down the country's leading nuclear weapons lab on Friday, after a set of classified computer disks disappeared, and a student was hit in the eye with a powerful laser beam -- all in the space of a week.ABRAHAM TO LOS ALAMOS: GET A CLUEEnergy Secretary Spencer Abraham has heard from his top deputies about the security situation at Los Alamos. And he is pissed.LOS ALAMOS SCIENTISTS SPOOKEDThere's something missing from all the hubbub about security breaches and safety violations and political maneuverings over at Los Alamos: a sense of how the lab's 12,000 employees feel about having their workplace shut down. The answer, in a word, is spooked.NO SECRET DISKS FOR NUKE LABSStop using classified disks -- everywhere. That's the order Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham handed down today, telling the country's entire nuclear weapons complex to lay off the use of classified CDs, Zip disks, floppies and portable hard drives until new training and procedures are put in place.NUKE LAB FRAUDSTERS COP A PLEAThe men who helped start the current wave of scandals at Los Alamos have pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud,LOS ALAMOS CAVEMAN CAUGHTAuthorities have evicted a man from a cave on Los Alamos National Laboratory land where they say he apparently lived for years with the comforts of home a wood-burning stove, solar panels connected to car batteries for electricity and a satellite radio.NUKE LAB CONTRACT: AMNESIA ATTACKImagine, for a moment, that you had held your job for the last sixty years. And then the boss wanted you to re-apply for your job, all over again. But your past performance over the decades that would barely count, when you filled out the application.You'd call that kind of a mixed, message, right? But it's exactly what the Energy Department did, when it began to put the Los Alamos National Laboratory's contract up for bid, for the first time ever.

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