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J. Samuel Walker - Regulating against Nuclear Terrorism: The Domestic Safeguards Issue, 1970-1979 - Technology and Culture 42:1 Technology and Culture 42.1 (2001) 107-132

Regulating against Nuclear Terrorism: The Domestic Safeguards Issue, 1970-1979

J. Samuel Walker


During the early years of commercial nuclear power development in the 1950s and 1960s, the main concern with regard to reactor safety was the possibility of a severe accident that would cause a massive release of radioactivity into the environment. The nuclear industry and the government agency primarily responsible for nuclear safety, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), focused their efforts on preventing an accident that would seriously imperil the health of those exposed to radiation from a crippled plant. But another problem of potentially even greater importance received less attention: making certain that reactor fuels or other materials could not be used by individuals or groups to make nuclear weapons. The objective of keeping materials that could be made into bombs from reaching the hands of terrorists, criminals, or aberrant individuals did not receive a great deal of consideration until the 1970s, when it emerged as a major technological and political issue. An internal AEC report appraised the question in stark terms in April 1974: "The potential harm to the public from the explosion of an illicitly made nuclear weapon is greater than that from any plausible power plant accident, including one which involves a core meltdown." 1

Consideration of appropriate means to protect nuclear plants and materials intensified an already bitter national debate over nuclear power during the 1970s. Eventually the uproar over "safeguards," which was the term applied to the protection of nuclear plants from sabotage and [End Page 107] nuclear materials from theft, resulted in tightened regulations imposed by the AEC and its successor, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The safeguards issue added a new dimension to the debate over the risks of nuclear power. Risk analysis was a fledgling enterprise; a major project sponsored by the AEC and the NRC during the 1970s to assess the risks of reactor accidents, for example, fed rather than eased controversy over that question. Attempting to evaluate the risks of nuclear sabotage or terrorist acquisition of nuclear materials was even more problematical. No matter what the level of risk might be, however, it was apparent that the potential consequences were so great that the issue of safeguards had to be carefully and thoroughly addressed. The AEC and the NRC sought to provide suitable protection against a terrorist threat, but with little experience on which to draw and limited knowledge about the nature or the magnitude of the risks, their approach was necessarily open to question. A series of regulations published by the two agencies between 1973 and 1979 failed to settle the safeguards issue and further inflamed the nuclear power controversy. 2

The AEC had briefly considered the question of safeguards in nuclear power reactors a short time after the 1954 Atomic Energy Act made possible the widespread commercial use of nuclear energy. The AEC's regulatory staff drafted a rule on safeguarding "special nuclear materials" that it presented to the commissioners, who made the final decisions on approving regulations, in early 1955. "Special nuclear materials" meant plutonium or the isotopes uranium 233 or uranium 238 enriched in uranium 233 or uranium 235 that could be used, in different forms and levels of enrichment, to fuel both nuclear reactors and weapons. The question of safeguarding the special nuclear materials that the AEC made available to private industry generated considerable discussion when the staff prepared its first regulations for the commercial use of nuclear energy. Harold L. Price, the director of the regulatory staff, told the commissioners that rather than imposing detailed safeguards and accountability procedures, the AEC could [End Page 108] depend on the intrinsic monetary value of special nuclear material to ensure that licensees would guard it carefully. 3

The regulation on safeguards that the commission approved in April 1955 specified that licensees would be assessed a heavy fee for the loss or damage of special nuclear materials they leased from the AEC. They were required to keep records on their inventory, inform the AEC of any losses, and submit semiannual reports on materials received, transferred, or possessed. The AEC felt confident that those measures, along with severe criminal penalties for attempting to steal special nuclear materials, offered adequate protection against unlawful activities. The safeguards requirements remained in effect without drawing much notice for a decade.

The issue received much greater attention in 1965, when the AEC discovered that a large amount of enriched uranium was unaccounted for in a uranium processing and fuel fabrication plant. The plant, located in Apollo, Pennsylvania, was owned by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC). During two inspections the AEC found that the NUMEC facility had experienced unusually high losses of uranium. The discrepancy exceeded estimated losses from normal operations by about 100 kilograms, which was enough to make four to six atomic bombs. The AEC believed that poor accounting practices and careless operating procedures probably explained the discrepancy, but there were suspicions within government and industry circles that special nuclear materials from the plant had been diverted to Israel to help it build an atomic bomb. The AEC conducted meticulous inspections without finding any indications of diversion. Its position was that while it "had no evidence that diversion had occurred, neither could [it] say unequivocally that the material had not been diverted." One reason that the AEC could not determine what had happened at NUMEC was that it had no standard for measuring "material-unaccounted-for." It lacked a clear definition of an acceptable level of material that vanished through "known loss mechanisms," such as adhering to pipes and filters, blowing out vents, sticking to shoes of workers, or being buried as scrap. 4 [End Page 109]

Whatever the causes of the discrepancies at the NUMEC plant, it was clear that a reexamination of the AEC's safeguards procedures and requirements was necessary. As one staff member told the commission in February 1966, the NUMEC situation "convincingly demonstrated that fulfillment of a financial responsibility requirement might not really satisfy the AEC's interest in special nuclear materials unaccounted for." The AEC promptly imposed new measures designed to place greater emphasis on preventing losses of material rather than simply assessing monetary penalties for them, including requirements for improved bookkeeping and inventory procedures.

The AEC also established an independent panel of outside experts to review its safeguards policies. The panel, chaired by Ralph F. Lumb, director of the Western New York Nuclear Research Center in Buffalo, submitted its final report to the AEC in March 1967. It cited the rapid growth in the number of nuclear power plants ordered during the previous two years as a compelling reason to improve both domestic and international safeguards. Between 1966 and 1968 the nuclear power industry experienced a boom that one utility executive called the "great bandwagon market." The Lumb panel acknowledged that "no fool-proof system [could] be devised to prevent diversion" of special nuclear materials. Nevertheless, it affirmed the importance of doing everything possible to reduce the opportunities for illicit access to them. The panel urged that safeguards issues receive more attention from high-level officials within the AEC, that organizational changes be made to focus on those issues, and that regulations be tightened to provide better safeguards procedures and security measures. 5

The questions raised by the NUMEC case and the recommendations issued by the Lumb panel added a new dimension to the safeguards problem, which previously had received relatively little consideration. The sudden and unexpected growth of the commercial nuclear industry required that safeguards be strengthened to discourage theft and diversion of nuclear materials from the expanding number of nuclear power reactors and from "fuel cycle" plants in which uranium was enriched and fabricated into fuel. An editorial in the professional journal Nuclear News commented in late 1969: "Nuclear materials safeguards are a serious matter--involving every man, woman, and child on this planet. . . . There is no denying that safeguards is a tremendously complex matter. But there is no choice; we must have a practical, reliable system soon." 6

In response to the NUMEC case and the Lumb panel's recommendations, the AEC placed much greater emphasis on safeguards. One area that received increased attention was plant security, which was vital for curtailing both the threat of plant sabotage and the danger of theft of nuclear [End Page 110] materials. The AEC drafted guidelines to advise licensees on safeguards procedures and required licensees who held a specified amount of special nuclear materials to equip their plants with physical security barriers such as locks, safes, and alarms. But the agency lacked basic criteria for judging the adequacy of physical security in nuclear plants. The AEC also commissioned a study by a group of outside consultants to analyze the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to industrial sabotage and the likelihood that acts by saboteurs could endanger public safety. The panel, headed by C. Rogers McCullough, a well-known reactor expert, concluded in July 1968 that although the question had received little consideration in the design of nuclear plants, the probability of sabotage that could threaten the public "is believed to be so low that [it] is virtually incredible." Nevertheless, it acknowledged that civil unrest in the United States, a growing concern in the wake of the assassinations and demonstrations of the previous few months, could increase the possibility of industrial sabotage in nuclear plants. 7

Despite the reassuring conclusions of the McCullough panel, the threat of sabotage took on increased credibility as politically motivated violence became more common in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the first three months of 1970 alone, bombs that killed six people and injured at least fifteen more exploded in American cities. As a result of those bombings, U.S. News and World Report commented, "officials and citizens all across the country are wondering if the United States is entering a new and highly dangerous era." Those fears extended to nuclear facilities. Between 1969 and 1971, explosives were discovered at a research reactor at the Illinois Institute of Technology and at the Point Beach commercial nuclear power plant, and bombs detonated in the Stanford University Linear Accelerator caused substantial damage. Several attempts at arson in research reactors occurred during the same period. Although the incidents did not cause major crises and the motivations of those who acted against the facilities remained obscure, they generated new misgivings about the adequacy of existing safeguards. In December 1970 Chet Holifield, chairman of the AEC's congressional oversight committee, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, asked AEC chairman Glenn T. Seaborg whether regulations to guard against sabotage had received sufficient consideration. Seaborg replied that AEC policies were being reassessed because "actions carried out by professional subversive groups trained in sabotage and familiar with the facility have not been previously considered in our reviews." 8 [End Page 111]

IMAGE LINK= The growing uncertainties about protection against sabotage were compounded by increasing anxieties about the theft of nuclear materials by terrorists or criminals seeking to build nuclear weapons. With regard to both domestic and international safeguards, this issue triggered the greatest alarm, initially among nuclear professionals but soon in a larger segment of the population as well. The primary, though not the only, source of concern was the anticipated growth in the use of plutonium to fuel nuclear power reactors. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, most authorities believed that plutonium, which could be obtained by reprocessing spent fuel from light-water reactors or produced in bountiful quantities in the future by breeder reactors, would largely replace enriched uranium as fuel for nuclear power (fig. 1). The light-water design for reactors was employed in practically all the plants then in operation or on order. It used uranium fuel enriched to about 3 percent of the fissionable isotope uranium 235, a level not suitable for building bombs. Nuclear weapons need either uranium fuel enriched to 90 percent or more of uranium 235 or plutonium, the fissionable material in the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945 and in U.S. nuclear weapons tested after World War II. Expanded use of plutonium in [End Page 112] nuclear power production would magnify the chances that it would become available to foreign nations or terrorists for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Victor Gilinsky, an analyst with the RAND Corporation, expressed the depth of concern over the future availability of plutonium from nuclear power in a 1970 article: "Generally speaking, the diversion of plutonium produced in civilian reactors is the chief danger associated with civilian nuclear power programs." 9

The possibility of terrorist or criminal action took on new urgency in October 1970, when officials in Orlando, Florida, received a threat to blow up the city with a hydrogen bomb unless they paid a ransom of one million dollars within twenty-four hours. The blackmail message included a description of a bomb that seemed sufficiently credible to nuclear experts that they could not dismiss it as a bluff. City officials seriously considered paying the ransom until further police investigation revealed the threat to be a hoax. The source of the ransom demand was a fourteen-year-old boy who was an honor roll student at a local school. 10

Although the Orlando incident proved to be a juvenile caper, it underscored the need to address momentous questions about the adequacy of nuclear safeguards. Within a short time, the possibility that nuclear materials used for the production of nuclear power could fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals became a prominent public issue. The central figure in prodding the AEC to tighten its requirements and in bringing safeguards to the attention of the public was a highly respected former designer of atomic bombs, Theodore B. Taylor. From 1949 to 1956 Taylor had worked at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, where he had specialized in conceptualizing designs for small and efficient atomic bombs. He later worked on other nuclear projects in private industry and served as deputy director of the Pentagon's Defense Atomic Support Agency before establishing his own consulting firm in 1967. His experience had convinced him that a well-informed illicit bomb maker did not have to duplicate the Manhattan Project to build a weapon that could cause enormous destruction. Taylor pointed out that much information about how to make an atomic bomb could be gleaned from unclassified sources, and he insisted that it was not a terribly difficult task if one had the required special nuclear materials. He [End Page 113] suggested that a bomb need not be sophisticated or efficient to cause staggering death and destruction; a very crude bomb could yield enough explosive power, for example, to topple the World Trade Center in New York or destroy the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. 11

Taylor was convinced that the AEC was not doing enough to prevent terrorists or criminals from acquiring the special nuclear materials they needed to build a bomb, and he urged it to tighten its safeguards requirements. By early 1971 the AEC had initiated action to strengthen its regulations, but Taylor thought that more had to be done. In April 1971 he told Seaborg: "Present U.S. safeguards regulations and procedures applied to special nuclear materials for non-military purposes are inadequate for preventing theft of strategic quantities of highly enriched uranium, plutonium, or U-233." In the same month, a lengthy article in Science magazine, apparently written with Taylor's assistance, emphasized the risks that the increasing availability of plutonium would present. It cited the huge quantities of plutonium that would be used to fuel reactors if the AEC's predictions about the growth of nuclear power proved accurate, and quoted AEC experts who acknowledged that keeping track of all of it was impossible. The diversion of small amounts of plutonium from the ever increasing supply would be undetectable, or plutonium could be obtained by assaulting plants, hijacking airplanes, or stealing trucks. The article echoed Taylor's assertion that building a bomb was relatively easy once special nuclear materials had been acquired. Therefore, "the only real obstacle now stopping anyone from building a perfectly good bomb is the present scarcity of materials and . . . tight security." The conclusions of the Science article were highlighted in Newsweek, and over the next few months the safeguards issue was prominently featured in other popular media. 12

The AEC, meanwhile, was drafting a series of new rules to protect against sabotage of plants and theft of materials. In part it acted on its own recognition of the need to improve safeguards and in part it acted in response to growing public attention. Delmar L. Crowson, director of the Division of Nuclear Materials Security, suggested in January 1972 that the signs of "heightened press interest" gave the AEC additional incentive "to expedite our efforts to develop more completely and systematically our safeguards for plutonium as well as highly enriched uranium." In early 1973 [End Page 114] the agency announced several new measures. A number of them were intended to provide better protection against the theft of material in transit. Transportation of special nuclear materials was a matter of particular concern, as the regulatory staff told the commission in December 1972: "For some time, it has been the consensus among persons concerned with safeguards that transportation is the weakest link in the fuel cycle from the standpoint of vulnerability to theft and diversion." The commission decided that, effective immediately, the volume of special nuclear materials shipped by passenger aircraft would be limited (20 grams or 20 curies, whichever was less, of plutonium or uranium 233, and 350 grams of uranium 235 enriched to more than 20 percent). The reason for the immediate imposition of this restriction was "the increased number of [airplane] highjackings during the past year."

In addition, the AEC published a number of new safeguards regulations for public comment. Several dealt with ground transportation. They proposed that trucks or trailers, unless "specially designed to protect against theft or diversion," would have to be accompanied by two armed escorts traveling in a separate vehicle. The trucks would have to carry "radio-telephone" capability or call every two hours to report their whereabouts. Other requirements would include special identification markings, "preferential routing," and "continuous surveillance." Similar requirements for armed guards, surveillance, and communication would apply to trains. 13

The AEC proposed further regulations to guard against sabotage of or theft from nuclear plants. The new rules would require a physical security plan from applicants for licenses and place stricter controls on access to special nuclear materials. They stipulated that fuel reprocessing facilities, where plutonium was separated from spent nuclear fuel, must equip and train armed guards. Reprocessing plants would contain much larger inventories of accessible special nuclear materials than power reactors, especially after heavy use of plutonium for the production of nuclear electricity began. The AEC's proposed regulations would, in addition, instruct licensees to conduct more frequent inventories of special nuclear materials on hand. The frequency varied according to the materials involved; in the case of plutonium it would be necessary at least every thirty days. While the AEC expressed confidence that its new regulations would provide important improvements in its safeguards programs, it also suggested that additional measures might be necessary. 14 [End Page 115]

The AEC's proposed rules were greeted with consternation by nuclear industry officials; a story in the trade magazine Nuclear Industry described them as a "regulatory flash flood." Industry representatives objected, for example, to the requirement for armed guards at reprocessing plants, which seemed out of proportion to the threat of attacks. They also took strong exception to the proposed armed escorts for shipments of special nuclear materials; they contended that armed hijackers would simply eliminate the escort vehicle before seizing their objective. Industry officials pointed out that the radiotelephones that trucks would have to carry were not reliable, and that the alternative of calling every two hours to report would be difficult if not impossible on roads with few telephone booths. Further, making calls every two hours would subject the shipment to greater dangers than if it stopped less frequently. 15

The AEC made a few minor revisions in the proposed rules in response to industry criticisms; one lengthened the interval at which truckers had to report their location if a radiotelephone was not available from two hours to five. But the agency left most of the draft regulations intact, and in fact even tightened some rules--for example, imposing new requirements to protect shipments of special nuclear materials by sea at a level commensurate with those by land or air. The commission approved the final version of the regulations on 10 October 1973, and they became effective two months later. The AEC acknowledged that it knew of no cases of theft of special nuclear materials or sabotage of plants that endangered public safety. But it argued that the new regulations were necessary to provide adequate safeguards for the future. Commissioner William Kriegsman, who had assumed a leading role on safeguards issues for the AEC, commented that the costs of the new rules would be small relative to "the enormous gain in security and public safety." 16

The AEC's position on the need for strengthened safeguards received support in a report prepared by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). A GAO investigation of three AEC contractors or licensees that possessed special nuclear materials found barriers that were easily breached, locks that were not secured, alarms that did not work, and guards who were inattentive. Even some nuclear industry officials acknowledged that safeguards had to be improved. Gerald J. Walke, nuclear fuel management administrator for Consumers Power Company of Michigan, told Barron's that despite the burdens of the AEC's new requirements, "in a rational moment, you [End Page 116] realize that we got exactly what we deserve." He explained: "There have been enough botches. There are cases where people could have stolen a whole truckload of plutonium." 17

The AEC's adoption of substantially strengthened safeguards regulations did not mark an end to its consideration of the issue or arrest controversy about it. In fact, in the early months of 1974 the public debate over safeguards reached new levels of intensity. In December 1973 the New Yorker magazine published a widely noticed three-part article by staff writer John McPhee on Theodore Taylor's career and his views on safeguards. In January 1974 Taylor presented his arguments in hearings held by the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. He expressed support for the AEC's new rules but contended that they did not go far enough. "The situation is significantly improved," he declared, "but we are still running much too slowly to catch up with the problem." Taylor was confident that an effective safeguards program was possible, and he called for additional measures to strengthen existing requirements, including further improvements in physical barriers at nuclear facilities, shipment of special nuclear materials in massive containers that could not be easily penetrated or transferred, and expansion of guard forces. Taylor suggested that a federal protective service to guard nuclear plants and shipments might be needed to ensure adequate protection of nuclear materials. A short time after his testimony, Taylor elaborated his position in a book, sponsored by the Ford Foundation, that he coauthored with Mason Willrich, a professor of law at the University of Virginia and former assistant general counsel of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. 18

The chairman of the AEC, Dixy Lee Ray, responded to Taylor's testimony by affirming the importance of effective safeguards. She assured the committee that the AEC was well aware of the seriousness of the problem and committed to reducing its risks to a minimum. "It was for this reason," she added, "that the Commission recently approved much more stringent safeguards regulations." But Ray took issue with some of the specific positions that Taylor advanced. She denied that building even a crude atomic bomb was as simple as Taylor argued. She also commented that although the AEC was studying the creation of a federal security force to protect nuclear facilities, she did not believe that it was "necessary or desirable at this time." Ray pledged that the AEC would continue to review the soundness of its approach and make improvements as required. Her promises [End Page 117] received additional impetus from President Richard M. Nixon, who "directed that a priority effort be dedicated to ensuring the adequacy of safeguards systems" in a memorandum from national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger to Ray in April 1974. 19

As a result of such attention, safeguards became a cause of sharply increasing concern. Indeed, a "new furor" (in the words of Nuclear Industry) arose over a report prepared for the AEC that described the agency's safeguards regulations as "entirely inadequate." The report was commissioned by John F. O'Leary, the AEC's director of licensing, who sought a professional evaluation of safeguards programs. The team of experts who made the study was recruited by David M. Rosenbaum, a consultant on "terrorist threats to technology." Focusing their attention on the threat that terrorists could acquire special nuclear materials and build a bomb, they reached sobering conclusions about the vulnerability of existing safeguards procedures. 20

Rosenbaum and his colleagues asserted that AEC regulations, even with the recently approved revisions, were insufficient to prevent the theft of nuclear materials. Echoing the Taylor/Willrich position on the relative ease with which an atomic bomb could be built by terrorists, they called for much stricter safeguards requirements. Their recommendations for improvements included: the establishment of an armed federal protective [End Page 118] force to guard nuclear facilities and transportation; improved access to intelligence information on domestic and foreign terrorist groups through liaison with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; expanded study of terrorist threats through "gaming analysis" that could reveal weaknesses in existing safeguards requirements; and much more elaborate, precise, and frequent accountability procedures to provide timely detection of theft or diversion of special nuclear materials. Rosenbaum and his coauthors argued that the objective of the AEC should be to "bring the risk to the public from safeguards problems down to the level of public risk associated with the operation of nuclear power plants." 21

The Rosenbaum report contended that the threat from terrorists was real and growing. "Terrorist groups," it declared, "have increased their professional skills, intelligence networks, finances, and levels of armaments throughout the world." It suggested further that the United States was hardly immune from the threat, as the recent kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst from her apartment by a band of terrorists indicated. Rosenbaum and his colleagues predicted that the Hearst kidnapping was the "precursor of a wave of such incidents" and warned: "If not firmly and competently met, these kidnappings may lead to a rise of urban terrorist groups in this country of the sort without precedent in our history." They recommended that safeguards requirements be upgraded to defend against a raid by up to fifteen "highly trained" terrorists. 22

Rosenbaum and his associates submitted a draft of their report to O'Leary in late April 1974 for consideration by the AEC staff. Before the AEC could evaluate its findings, however, a copy leaked to Senator Abraham Ribicoff, a frequent critic of the agency on safeguards issues. Ribicoff decided to release the report to the press, because, he said, "the general public is entitled to know of the serious danger posed by the failure of the AEC to institute an adequate safeguards system." The AEC objected to the release of a draft that it had not yet reviewed carefully, but it could not prevent its publication. The Rosenbaum study, along with a U.S. General Accounting Office report that questioned the adequacy of the AEC's regulations on transportation of special nuclear materials that appeared about the same time, contributed to growing controversy. Within a short time, an unexpected development intensified concerns about safeguards by showing that nuclear materials designed for civilian applications could be used to build a bomb: in May 1974 India tested a nuclear device, euphemistically described as a "peaceful nuclear explosive," using materials exported for peaceful purposes from Canada and almost certainly from the United States to make plutonium for the explosion. 23 [End Page 119]

The latest series of hearings, books, reports, and news stories, combined with the shock of the Indian nuclear test, again made safeguards a prominent, if not preeminent, safety issue. As an editorial in Nuclear News observed in July 1974: "Nuclear safeguards has moved from the also-ran to the forefront among . . . nuclear issues in an astonishingly short time." The AEC's regulatory staff promptly reviewed the Rosenbaum report and told the commission that it "fully agree[d] with the major thrust of this study." The most important recommendation about which it expressed uncertainty (but not outright opposition) was the creation of a federal force to guard nuclear plants and special nuclear materials in transit. After lengthy discussions and deliberation, in October 1974 the staff proposed a series of new regulations designed to further strengthen safeguards requirements. The measures were necessary, it argued, "due to the amount of public attention being given to the safeguards area and the resulting flood of information in the media, and the increase of terrorism in this country and throughout the world." The purpose of the revised rules would be to carry out most of the recommendations of the Rosenbaum report and to [End Page 120] prepare for much greater use of plutonium in power reactors in the future. 24

IMAGE LINK= IMAGE LINK= The regulatory staff drafted more stringent procedures for safeguarding special nuclear materials in transit. On a road shipment in which continuous communication could not be maintained, a specially designed truck or trailer (figs. 2 and 3) would need two armed guards and a separate escort vehicle with two armed guards. An alternative would be to use an armored car with two armed guards and two escorts, each of which would carry two armed guards. If continuous communication was possible, a shipment could be made in an armored car accompanied by one escort vehicle; both the armored car and the escort would need two armed guards. The staff pointed out that the "use of unarmored trucks as presently permitted will be eliminated." It recommended other new transportation regulations, including requirements for two armed guards for air and sea shipments, [End Page 121] five armed guards for rail shipments, and "tamper indicating" seals on containers. 25

At the same time, the regulatory staff drew up new measures to protect against sabotage of nuclear plants and to provide better accountability procedures for inventories of special nuclear materials. It proposed physical security requirements for licensees holding a specified amount of special nuclear materials that included the establishment of a "security organization" with guards, bulletproof windows and doors in control rooms, enhanced barriers to access into restricted areas, and tighter procedures for identification and surveillance of persons entering the plant. It also recommended that improved alarm systems and close liaison with local law enforcement authorities be mandated. In order to ensure more scrupulous management of inventories of special nuclear materials, the staff drafted criteria to assist licensees "to plan, establish, and maintain a . . . program for materials control and accounting." In this way, it sought to make certain that licensees would take advantage of technological advances that made possible more meticulous measurement and accounting techniques. The AEC issued the rules on inventory control in October 1974 and published the staff's proposals on physical security and transportation for public comment the following month. 26

The nuclear industry complained about the proposed regulations, just as it had objected to the safeguards requirements that the AEC had imposed the previous year. One utility executive commented that nuclear power plants were not very good targets for terrorists and suggested that the AEC was "making mountains out of molehills again." An official from General Electric told a group of nuclear professionals that the proposed regulations were "like a cold shower" and added: "I'm still getting adjusted to the idea that there are so many thugs and thieves out there in our society." 27

As those issues were being debated, the AEC was rapidly approaching its end. The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford on 11 October, abolished the agency and replaced it with the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The law made the NRC responsible for carrying [End Page 122] out the regulatory functions that the AEC had performed. When the NRC began operations on 19 January 1975 one of the most important, most visible, and most controversial issues it inherited from the AEC was safeguards. While receiving public comments on the proposed regulations that the AEC had published the previous fall, the NRC took up other safeguards questions. The Energy Reorganization Act included a requirement that the agency conduct a study of whether a federal security force should be established. The NRC also decided to sponsor a major "Special Safeguards Study" in which experts from national laboratories and contractors would report on the status of and approaches to safeguards issues. 28

While the NRC was waiting for those studies to be completed, the controversy over the safeguards problem continued to command a great deal of attention both inside and outside the government. The debate over safeguards, as it played out in the popular media, congressional hearings, and other sources by early 1975, focused on two different views of the dangers that the potential theft of special nuclear materials presented. One was that not enough was being done to ensure that adequate safeguards were in place. The other was equally disturbing. It held that a system that assured adequate safeguards would be so intrusive that it would threaten fundamental civil liberties to an unacceptable degree. The first position was advanced by several prominent experts and policymakers who believed that improvements in safeguards were essential and rejected the argument that the use of nuclear power would undermine American freedom. Victor Gilinsky, who had been among the first to call attention to the problems of theft and diversion of special nuclear materials from nuclear power plants and who had been appointed by President Ford as an NRC commissioner, remained a strong advocate of upgrading safeguards but denied that effective measures would imperil the civil liberties of American citizens. Theodore Taylor continued to emphasize the need for stringent safeguards but he also insisted that nuclear power offered "very large benefits." He found "no evidence that . . . protecting nuclear material would result in a police state." 29

The second position--that protecting against the dangers of nuclear power represented a serious threat to civil liberties--was taken up by many nuclear critics. One antinuclear group, for example, the Citizens Energy Project, insisted that "nuclear power and civil liberties cannot co-exist; to [End Page 123] the extent that nuclear power is expanded, civil liberties must be restricted." Alaska Senator Mike Gravel put it in stark terms in early 1976: "What are you prepared to give up in order to have nuclear energy? I expect you are going to give up every ounce of freedom you enjoy." Not all nuclear critics were so doctrinaire. The goals of organizations and individuals who campaigned against nuclear power were not always clear; their objectives ranged from closing down nuclear power completely to imposing a moratorium on further construction to bringing about political and regulatory reforms. By the mid-1970s antinuclear activism had gained substantial support and credibility, partly because of controversies over technical issues such as reactor safety and radiation protection and partly because of cultural and philosophical divisions in American society. The increasing popularity of a "small is beautiful" outlook on technology and economic expansion in the 1970s reflected growing doubts about the prevailing emphasis on centralization and bigness. In an atmosphere of intense public debate over the advantages and liabilities of nuclear power, the safeguards issue was a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the technology's opponents. 30

The controversy over safeguards placed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a delicate position because of the difficulty of designing a program that was effective but not excessive. The agency was committed to providing adequate safeguards, but deciding on what constituted "adequacy" was problematic. There was no definite answer to the key question of what safeguards measures would make nuclear plants "safe enough." Many, if not most, of the NRC's staff and policymakers believed that improvements in safeguards were still necessary, but they were less certain about what specific steps should be taken. They were mindful that any new requirements were likely to arouse the objections of the nuclear industry, which already complained that existing rules and proposed ones represented regulatory overkill. They also realized that the imposition of new measures seemed equally likely to stir further protests from antinuclear activists who depicted nuclear technology not only as a threat to public safety but also as a menace to civil liberties. The NRC was concerned enough about the possibility that the application of safeguards could [End Page 124] undermine civil liberties to sponsor a study of the issue. The consultants who prepared the report concluded in October 1975 that safeguards could infringe on civil liberties and urged that the agency carefully consider the potential impact of safeguards requirements.

The NRC could cite ample evidence to support its view that strengthening safeguards was essential. By October 1975 the agency had received several reports as part of its special safeguards study that called for a series of new measures. One of the papers, prepared by a team from the MITRE Corporation that included David Rosenbaum, soon hit the headlines. The MITRE report, like the study that Rosenbaum had made for the AEC in 1974, concluded that nuclear plants and nuclear materials in transit were vulnerable to theft by terrorists or criminals and that additional steps to reduce this possibility should be taken. The report was featured in a story in the Chicago Daily News on 28 November 1975 under the headline "Fear A-plant Terror Raids Would Peril Millions--U.S. Study." This, in turn, led to stories on the CBS Evening News, the Associated Press wire service, and in other media. The attention came at a time when terrorist acts around the world, including skyjackings, kidnappings, murders, and executions, had become so distressingly common that Newsweek labeled 1975 the "Year of Terror." 31

Although nuclear facilities were not subjected to attacks, they were not immune from the wave of terrorist activity, or at least the pretense of terrorist activity. Between 10 June 1975 and 1 June 1976, NRC licensees received bomb threats from anonymous callers on forty occasions. In the same period there was also one case of suspected arson, one sabotage threat, and three intrusions. On 23 December 1975, a citizen who had protested a proposed utility rate increase was told by an anonymous caller (who presumably agreed with his statements) that bombs had been planted around the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina and that they would be detonated by a radio transmitter. This threat and the others turned out to be hoaxes, but they were taken seriously by authorities in the NRC and law enforcement agencies. 32

Bomb threats were not the only source of concern. In February 1976, the New York Times published excerpts from a memorandum written by [End Page 125] Carl H. Builder, director of the NRC's Division of Safeguards, that raised doubts about the adequacy of safeguards in plants where nuclear fuel was produced. The Times received the document from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which used Builder's comments, along with the Rosenbaum and MITRE reports, as the centerpiece of a petition it submitted to the NRC on 3 February 1976. It requested that emergency measures be taken to upgrade safeguards requirements at fuel fabrication plants or that the plants' licenses be revoked. The NRDC made the same request for companies licensed to transport strategic quantities of special nuclear materials. Among other measures, it called for United States Marshals to guard the fuel fabrication facilities named in its petition as well as shipments of special nuclear materials. 33

Builder's memorandum expressed concern that "some or even many" of the NRC's fuel-cycle licensees "may not have safeguards which are adequate against the lowest levels of design threat we are considering." (The "lowest levels" to which he referred were an internal threat involving one person and an external threat involving three persons.) The NRDC petition and Builder's involuntary role in it were the focal points of hearings held by the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, chaired by Morris K. Udall, in late February 1976. Builder explained that he had intended his memo to alert his colleagues to new analytical concepts being developed to evaluate safeguards in the future and to suggest that those same tools could be used to evaluate existing conditions. He did not intend to draw firm conclusions about the status of safeguards at the plants in question. But the distinction was lost in the discussions of his memorandum. Along with the NRDC petition it raised additional concerns about the adequacy of safeguards and the threat of terrorist or criminal activities. 34

In the context of the controversy and uneasiness generated by the MITRE report, bomb threats (even phony ones), the Builder memorandum and the NRDC petition, and the debate over whether nuclear power endangered American freedom, the NRC considered its position on safeguards. The NRC devoted more attention and resources to safeguards issues than [End Page 126] the AEC had done, partly because of the growing concern over the problem and partly because the Energy Reorganization Act required it to do so. The act created a statutory office, the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, to take responsibility for, among other things, protection against theft, diversion, and sabotage. By 30 June 1976 the office had a staff of more than two hundred. The NRC tried to address safeguards issues on a more comprehensive and systematic basis than the AEC had done, and the special safeguards study it had commissioned in 1975 would, it hoped, furnish a clearer idea of the nature and severity of the threats with which it was dealing. 35

In February 1977 the NRC issued new regulations on physical security of nuclear power plants, based on the proposed rules that the AEC had published for public comment in November 1974. The NRC made several minor changes in the proposed rules in response to the comments it had received, but the basic requirements remained intact. The agency acknowledged that it did not perceive an immediate threat to nuclear power plants, which made poor targets for anyone trying to obtain bomb-grade nuclear materials. The low-enriched uranium fuel used in light-water reactors was not suitable for making a nuclear bomb, and the plutonium lodged in spent fuel rods was inaccessible without reprocessing. Nevertheless, the NRC anticipated that the use of plutonium in power reactors would become common in the foreseeable future, and it wanted to make nuclear plants as secure as possible. Further, as Benard C. Rusche, director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, explained, "because of the increase in terrorism around the world, prudence seems to suggest the taking of increased precaution."

The new rules were designed to protect against "a determined violent external assault by stealth, or deceptive actions" or "an internal threat of an insider, including an employee in any position." They required new barriers to access to vital equipment and work zones as well as identification and search procedures for anyone entering restricted areas. They stipulated that plants must have upgraded alarm systems, internal communication networks, and control of keys, locks, and combinations. The regulations also specified that nuclear plants should have ten guards armed with semiautomatic weapons on duty at all times, unless the NRC granted an exemption that allowed fewer. The question of the level of force that nuclear power plants should employ was one of the most difficult and ethereal questions that the NRC had to address as it sought to strike a balance between sufficient protection and excessive requirements that could compromise civil liberties. It was impossible to predict, after all, the kind of attack and the size of an assault force that plant guards would have to defend against. The [End Page 127] NRDC, for example, had raised the specter of two guards with handguns trying to hold off a strike by twelve to fifteen heavily armed aggressors. The NRC eventually settled on the requirement for ten guards on-site. This was consistent with historical experience and expert opinion showing that terrorist attacks were seldom carried out by more than six persons and that most involved three or fewer individuals. 36

The nuclear industry's reaction to the new rules was more subdued than its objections to earlier AEC actions, but it found ample grounds for protest. One complaint was that the regulations represented a triumph for antinuclear interveners. "The primary concern of interveners does not seem to be whether a plant is adequately protected and safe," commented J. Dean Worthington, executive vice president of Pacific Gas and Electric. "Rather their concern seems to hinge around finding issues such as safeguards and security to delay a facility further or eliminate it altogether." The industry also worried about the costs of installing new systems, which the NRC estimated would run an average of two million dollars per plant for more guards and for tamperproof locks, closed circuit television, and other equipment. At least one utility executive, Commonwealth Edison vice president Byron Lee Jr., found those estimates to be too low. His company budgeted over five million dollars for each of its three operating nuclear sites to meet the new security requirements, a cost that Lee called "staggering." He complained: "I find it hard to believe that our existing system is inadequate, and that the improvements this expenditure will make are worth the money being spent." 37

In addition to the regulations it issued on plant security, the NRC reached a decision on the question of establishing a federal security force to protect special nuclear materials. The Energy Reorganization Act had directed the NRC to conduct a study on the advisability of creating a federal guard force. The report, prepared by the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards, concluded that there was no reason to believe that a federal force would perform more effectively than a private force operating under NRC regulations. Further, as Commissioner Richard T. Kennedy declared in June 1976: "The more stringent the safeguards . . . the greater [End Page 128] the potential for infringement of civil liberties. . . . We believe that fulfillment of our regulatory mandate can be achieved, at least for the foreseeable future, without creating a federal guard force which would raise larger social issues." 38

At the same time that the NRC was deciding on new rules on nuclear power plant security and the creation of a federal guard force, it was investigating the issue of safeguarding special nuclear materials in transit. In November 1974 the AEC had proposed for public comment new and tighter regulations for road, rail, sea, and air shipments, but the NRC had delayed taking final action until it could thoroughly review the problem. After drafting regulations and twice publishing them for public comment, the agency issued its rules on transportation in November 1979. Though similar to the proposals the AEC had published five years earlier, these differed in some respects. They required that road shipments maintain continuous communication and use either a vehicle that could be immobilized or an armored car, for example, and increased the number of armed guards to accompany a shipment to seven, one more than the maximum number the AEC had proposed. The seven armed guards were, however, fewer than the nine that the NRC had considered earlier; the agency staff concluded that seven guards were enough to "engage a small group of attackers and delay theft" while alerting the "movement control center" to what was happening. The rules also specified that rail shipments and airport landing sites be guarded by seven armed escorts; they further directed that airplanes and ships in transit be accompanied by two armed escorts. The new transportation safeguards marked the conclusion of a series of requirements imposed by the AEC and NRC between 1973 and 1979 that established the basic regulatory framework for protection against sabotage of nuclear plants and theft of nuclear materials. 39

By the end of the 1970s the effort to provide adequate domestic safeguards was a visible and elusive public policy issue that created a great deal of controversy. The AEC and later the NRC, acting in response to their own growing recognition of the need for improved safeguards and to the clear signs of increased public and congressional concern over the issue, substantially tightened their requirements. Agency officials and other nuclear experts were aware, however, that those requirements did not eliminate the possibility of terrorist action against nuclear plants or shipments. David M. Rosenbaum, whose reports on the terrorist threat for the AEC and the NRC received a great deal of attention, warned in 1977: "Nuclear terrorism may [End Page 129] be one of the most important political and social problems of the next fifty years. . . . [It] will remain a serious problem no matter what we do." 40

Although there was wide, indeed unanimous, agreement among participants on all sides of the nuclear debate on the need for adequate safeguards against terrorist or criminal threats, there was much less agreement about what level of protection was adequate. That uncertainty lay at the heart of the controversy. The nuclear industry complained strenuously that the increasingly rigorous requirements imposed by the AEC and the NRC went beyond what was necessary. The regulations that the two agencies issued over the objections of the industry indicated that, contrary to the charges of antinuclear groups, the AEC and the NRC did not simply bow to the wishes of nuclear proponents on regulatory matters.

The safeguards controversy made an important impact on the nuclear industry in the 1970s, and in that sense nuclear technology was indirectly shaped by social influences. The AEC and the NRC had to arbitrate disputes arising from contrasting political and social views. Although the AEC began to take action to strengthen safeguards in response to the NUMEC controversy and the Lumb panel report in the late 1960s, agency officials devoted greater attention and resources to the issue after it became a major topic of media coverage and public debate. The specific form of the regulations issued by the AEC and NRC was influenced by the opinions vigorously advanced by opposing sides in the debate. Both agencies attempted to strike a reasonable balance that provided enhanced safety against terrorist threats without imposing undue costs or undermining civil liberties. But their judgments did not resolve the controversy. Although they imposed rules that were more stringent and far-reaching than the nuclear industry regarded as necessary, they did not satisfy the concerns of critics who found those measures useful but still inadequate. Nor did they alleviate the anxieties of those who believed that any system that was rigorous enough to deter terrorists effectively posed a genuine menace to the civil liberties of American citizens.

The polarized nature of the debate over safeguards prevented agreements or accommodations that might have settled differences between proponents of the competing positions. The controversy did not achieve what scholars have termed "closure," defined by Wiebe E. Bijker and John Law as "the process by which conflicting groups reach (or impose) a specific outcome and so conclude the dispute." 41 The rules that the AEC and NRC [End Page 130] issued dealt with the safeguards question by regulatory fiat; they represented the judgment of the agencies about what constituted sufficient safeguards against sabotage and theft. This did not conform with the process of technological closure because they did not produce a consensus among the competing interests. In the case of nuclear safeguards, the process of closure was inhibited and probably proscribed by the lack of common ground on which opposing views could be accommodated. Further, the lack of confidence in the AEC and the NRC on the part of social groups at both poles of the issue meant that the regulations that were published did not themselves carry enough authority to achieve closure.

The controversy over safeguards was the result not only of the inability to reach closure about safeguards but also of the larger debate over nuclear power in the 1970s. As Joseph G. Morone and Edward J. Woodhouse have suggested, nuclear power was unique among risky technologies in its capacity to create and sustain public fears. Unlike the chemical industry or genetic engineering, the risks of nuclear technology could not be tested in a laboratory or reliably quantified. Consequently, there was no way to demonstrate that nuclear power was acceptably safe in order to satisfy critics or ease public misgivings. 42 During the 1970s, as more reactors came on line and the nuclear industry made plans to build many more, the debate over nuclear power reached unprecedented levels of visibility and acrimony.

The safeguards controversy both reflected and contributed to the nuclear power debate. It introduced an issue certain to arouse new concerns, especially when combined with already growing public fears of terrorism. The nature and severity of the threat of terrorist action against nuclear plants or materials were impossible to evaluate with precision because there was so little experience or knowledge on which to draw. Other issues that the AEC and the NRC assessed, including reactor safety and radiation protection, also lacked an unambiguous database, but in those cases there was at least some empirical evidence and experience on which to project risks. With safeguards, many key questions were less amenable to reliable or credible answers, especially since they did not hinge on the considerations that the nuclear industry normally addressed, namely, the performance of equipment. What level of safeguards protection was needed for nuclear power plants? If an attack occurred, how many assailants might be involved? How would they be armed? How would they [End Page 131] be trained? What measures were needed to guard against the threat of sabotage or of theft of materials in transit?

The potential consequences of a worst-case failure in safeguards--terrorist possession of a nuclear bomb--exceeded the direst projected consequences of a nuclear plant accident. This was the most alarming aspect of the safeguards controversy, and the one most likely to make a strong impact on a public increasingly concerned about nuclear power hazards. The safeguards controversy, therefore, underscored with vivid intensity the conflicts and uncertainties surrounding the growth of nuclear power at the same time that it sustained and energized the nuclear debate.

The AEC and, after its demise, the NRC, stood at the center of that debate. In considering safeguards, as with other regulatory questions, they were committed to protecting public safety, but their decisions on what was safe enough were influenced by a variety of sometimes conflicting pressures and objectives. They wanted to ensure nuclear power safety in a way that would not be unduly burdensome to the industry. They also wanted to establish credibility as fair and effective regulators. This was especially important for the NRC, which was created in large part because of a widespread loss of confidence in the AEC's regulatory performance. Therefore, the AEC and the NRC took the arguments of nuclear skeptics about safeguards seriously and sought to address their concerns. In the midst of an angry national debate over nuclear power, however, their efforts satisfied neither the nuclear industry nor antinuclear activists, and both agencies suffered sharp criticism in the media, in Congress, and in other public forums. Those pressures were not unique to the nuclear power debate; other regulatory agencies faced similar problems of judging competing claims and receiving unfavorable commentaries for their approaches to technological issues. But the bitterness of the nuclear debate and the attention it commanded placed the decisions of the AEC and NRC in an often harsh spotlight. In the case of safeguards, the AEC and the NRC reached conclusions and published regulations that were closer to the position of nuclear power critics than to that of the nuclear industry. The risks that terrorists could gain access to nuclear materials were both increasingly credible and potentially so severe that major improvements in safeguards requirements seemed imperative.

Dr. Walker is historian of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He is the author of Permissible Dose: A History of Radiation Protection in the Twentieth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000)


1. David M. Rosenbaum, John N. Googin, Robert M. Jefferson, Daniel J. Kleitman, and William C. Sullivan, "Special Safeguards Study," April 1974, Public Document Room, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Rockville, Md. (hereafter cited as "NRC Records").

2. On public perception of risk, see, for example, Baruch Fischhoff, Sarah Lichtenstein, Paul Slovic, Stephen L. Derby, and Ralph L. Keeny, Acceptable Risk (New York, 1981); Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1982); and H. W. Lewis, Technological Risk (New York, 1990). On the history of risk assessment, see Rodney P. Carlisle, "Probabilistic Risk Assessment in Nuclear Reactors: Engineering Success, Public Relations Failure," Technology and Culture 38 (1997): 920-41. The other important safeguards issue, which received much more attention from policymakers between 1945 and 1970, was preventing the use of nuclear power from leading to the proliferation of nuclear weapons among nation states. This article does not consider the problem of international safeguards, which also became a highly visible and controversial question during the 1970s. On that subject, see, for example, J. Samuel Walker, "Nuclear Power and Nonproliferation: The Controversy over Nuclear Exports, 1974- 1980," Diplomatic History 25 (2001): 215-49.

3. George T. Mazuzan and J. Samuel Walker, Controlling the Atom: The Beginnings of Nuclear Regulation, 1946-1962 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1984), 82-84.

4. J. Samuel Walker, Containing the Atom: Nuclear Regulation in a Changing Environment, 1963-1971 (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1992), 226-28. In published accounts on the subject, former AEC chairman Glenn T. Seaborg and journalist Seymour M. Hersh strongly defend the founder and head of NUMEC, Zalman M. Shapiro, from allegations that he diverted special nuclear materials to Israel. See Seaborg, with Benjamin S. Loeb, The Atomic Energy Commission under Nixon: Adjusting to Troubled Times (New York, 1993), 193-209, and Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York, 1991), 241-57. A more recent book, Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York, 1998), makes no mention of NUMEC as a source of special nuclear materials for Israel's atomic bomb program.

5. Walker, Containing the Atom, 228-31.

6. Nuclear News, December 1969, 15.

7. "Nuclear Regulatory Commission Staff Study Concerning Financial Protection against Potential Harm Caused by Sabotage or Theft of Nuclear Materials," app. B, June 1975, NRC Records.

8. Ibid.; Michael Flood, "Nuclear Sabotage," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 1976, 29-36; "Behind the Terror Bombings," U.S. News and World Report, 30 March 1970, 15-17; "Mystery Bomb Blasts Damage Stanford Linear Accelerator," Washington Post, 8 December 1971.

9. Richard Wolfson, Nuclear Choices: A Citizen's Guide to Nuclear Technology (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 95-118; Victor Gilinsky, "Military Potential of Civilian Nuclear Power," in Nuclear Proliferation: Prospects for Control, ed. Bennett Boskey and Mason Willrich (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), 6.

10. Mason Willrich and Theodore B. Taylor, Nuclear Theft: Risks and Safeguards (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), 80; Ralph E. Lapp, "The Ultimate Blackmail," New York Times Magazine, 4 February 1973, 13, 29-34; "Amateur A-Bomb?" Time, 13 May 1974, 87-88. The student received a suspended sentence from the judge in the case, who placed him under the guidance of two scientists in hopes that they would steer his abilities toward constructive purposes. John McPhee, The Curve of Binding Energy (New York, 1974), 119.

11. Taylor's views and career are detailed in McPhee.

12. Theodore B. Taylor to Glenn T. Seaborg, 8 April 1971, Materials-19, SS Accountability, AEC Records, Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.; Delmar L. Crowson to C. D. W. Thornton, 10 January 1972, NRC Records; Deborah Shapley, "Plutonium: Reactor Proliferation Threatens a Nuclear Black Market," Science, 9 April 1971, 143-46; "Black-Market A-Bombs?" Newsweek, 26 April 1971, 59; "Home-Made Atom Bombs?" New York Times, 31 December 1971; Lowell Ponte, "The Danger of Terrorists Getting Illicit A-Bombs," Los Angeles Times, 15 January 1973; "Homemade A-Bombs," Commonweal, 21 December 1973, 306; Lapp, 13, 31-34.

13. SECY-R-589 (6 December 1972); SECY-R-624 (12 January 1973); Lester Rogers to Edward J. Bauser, 24 January 1973; Crowson to Thornton, 10 January 1972; AEC press release, 30 January 1973, NRC Records. SECY papers were papers prepared by the staff to provide information or outline policy options to the commissioners, who used them as the basis for making decisions.

14. SECY-730 (3 December 1970), SECY-R-599 (12 December 1972), SECY-R-601 (14 December 1972), and AEC press release, 30 January 1973, NRC Records.

15. "Industry Inundated with Proposed New Safeguard Rules," Nuclear Industry, February 1973, 45-47; "Industry Left in Doubt about Actual Impact of New AEC Rules," Nuclear Industry, March 1973, 47-50; "Sharp Industry Criticisms of Proposed New Safeguard Rules," Nuclear Industry, May 1973, 31-34.

16. "AEC Issues New Rules for Safeguarding Nuclear Materials," Nuclear Industry, October 1973, 33; Minutes of Regulatory Policy Session 74-10, 10 October 1973, and AEC press release, 15 October 1973, NRC Records.

17. Robert Gillette, "Nuclear Safeguards: Holes in the Fence," Science, 14 December 1973, 1112-14; Charles Joslin, "Nuclear Genie," Barron's, 23 September 1974.

18. U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Hearings on Nuclear Reactor Safety, 93rd Cong., 2d sess., 1974, pt. 2, vol. 1, 518-31 (quotation on 530). The McPhee articles, later collected and published as The Curve of Binding Energy (n. 10 above), appeared in the 3, 10 and 17 December 1973 issues of the New Yorker, under the same title. The Willrich-Taylor book was Nuclear Theft: Risks and Safeguards (n. 10 above).

19. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Hearings on Nuclear Reactor Safety, pt. 2, vol. 1, 531-33; Henry A. Kissinger to Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, "National Security Decision Memorandum 254," 27 April 1974, Item 1307, Presidential Directives on National Security, National Security Archive, George Washington University, Washington, D.C. In April 1976, soon after the AEC was abolished, one of its successor agencies, the Energy Research and Development Administration, undertook an investigation that supported Ray's argument about the difficulty of building a primitive nuclear bomb. It concluded that "it would be foolhardy for any person or group to try to make a 'basement atomic bomb'" (emphasis in original). "Information from ERDA: Hazards of Attempting to Fabricate a Nuclear Explosive," April 1976, Subject File, Box 632 (Weapons 1976-1983), Papers of Victor Gilinsky, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, California. Donald MacKenzie and Graham Spinardi have recently discussed the difficulty of building an atomic bomb, even if one has the textbook scientific knowledge of how to do it. They attribute this to the need for "tacit" knowledge that cannot be written down or explained, and they note that Theodore Taylor backed off from his most alarming warnings about the ease with which a bomb could be built. MacKenzie and Spinardi also point out, however, that the "feasibility of a low-skill route to a crude nuclear weapon cannot . . . be ruled out." See MacKenzie and Spinardi, "Tacit Knowledge and the Uninvention of Nuclear Weapons," in Knowing Machines: Essays in Technical Change, ed. Donald MacKenzie (Cambridge, Mass., 1996), 215-60.

20. Rosenbaum et. al. (n. 1 above), 1, 34; David M. Rosenbaum to John F. O'Leary, 15 April 1974, NRC Records; "A New Furor," Nuclear Industry, May 1974, 3-5. The other consultants were John Googin of the Union Carbide Nuclear Division, Robert Jefferson of the Sandia Laboratory, Daniel Kleitman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and William Sullivan, former assistant to the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

21. Rosenbaum et. al., 11, 14-15, 23-32, 34.

22. Ibid., 1, 3, 6.

23. Abraham Ribicoff to Dixy Lee Ray, 26 April 1974, and Ribicoff press release, 28 April 1974, NRC Records; "Regulatory, GAO Find Major Flaws in AEC Safeguards Procedures," Nucleonics Week, 2 May 1974; Bernard Weinraub, "Atom Test Buoys Indians' Morale," New York Times, 20 May 1974; "A New Furor," 3. After learning that Ribicoff planned to make the report available on 28 April, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy decided to preempt him by releasing it to the press two days earlier.

24. SECY-R-74-197 (9 May 1974) and SECY-R-112A (15 October 1974), NRC Records; Jon Payne, "A New Head for Nuclear Controversy Hydra," Nuclear News, July 1974, 41; "Regulatory Staff Leans toward Approval of 'Safeguards Police' Plan," Nucleonics Week, 6 June 1974.

25. SECY-R-74-216 (22 May 1974), SECY-R-75-112A, Minutes of Limited Attendance Session 74-81 (24 May 1974), and Minutes of Limited Attendance Session 75-10 (2 August 1974), NRC Records.

26. "Status of Safeguards for Licensed SNM," n.d., White House Central File (Subject File: AT Atomic Energy), Box 1, Gerald R. Ford Papers, Gerald R. Ford Library, Ann Arbor, Michigan; SECY-R-75-38 (31 July 1974) and SECY-R-75-112 (11 October 1974), NRC Records; "AEC Proposes Rules to Strengthen Safeguards against Sabotage," Nuclear Industry, November 1974, 39-40; "Safeguards," Nuclear News, December 1974, 80.

27. "'We're Going into the Police Force and Kennel Business,'" Nucleonics Week, 16 May 1974; "AEC Safeguards Rules," Nuclear News, November 1974, 94; "Physical Protection Plan Draws Utility Opposition," and "SNM Transport Proposals Arouse Controversy," Nuclear News, April 1975, 48-52.

28. Dixy Lee Ray to Henry M. Jackson, 3 January 1975; "Special Safeguards Study: Scopes of Work," June 1975, NUREG-75060, NRC Records.

29. U.S. House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, Oversight Hearings on Nuclear Energy-International Proliferation of Nuclear Technology, 94th Cong., 1st sess., 1975, 47-61; "The Defense Wrestles," Nuclear News, August 1975, 103; "Police State Not Inevitable," Nuclear News, October 1975, 44; Willrich and Taylor (n. 10 above), 2. Gilinsky was appointed as a commissioner specifically because of his expertise on safeguards issues.

30. Donna Warnock, Nuclear Power and Civil Liberties: Can We Have Both? (Washington, D.C., 1978), 2; J. Gustave Speth, Arthur R. Tamplin, and Thomas B. Cochran, "Plutonium Recycle: The Fateful Step," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1974, 15-22; U.S. House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, Oversight Hearings on Nuclear Energy-Safeguards in the Domestic Nuclear Industry, 94th Cong., 2d sess., 1976, pt. 6, 8; Thomas Raymond Wellock, Critical Masses: Opposition to Nuclear Power in California, 1958-1978 (Madison, Wisc., 1998), 4-12, 157-61. On the "small is beautiful" movement, see E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered (New York, 1973), and Carroll Pursell, "The Rise and Fall of the Appropriate Technology Movement in the United States, 1965- 1985," Technology and Culture 34 (1993): 629-37.

31. Timothy B. Dyk, Daniel Marcus, and William J. Kolasky Jr., "Civil Liberties Implications of a Safeguards Program for Special Nuclear Material in the Private Nuclear Power Industry: A Report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," 31 October 1975; "The Threat to Licensed Nuclear Facilities," MITRE Technical Report MTR-7022, September 1975; John A. Harris to the commission, 28 November 1975 and 1 December 1975; Harris to Daryle M. Feldmeir, 8 December 1975; David M. Rosenbaum to William Anders, 1 December 1975, all in NRC Records. "Year of Terror," Newsweek, 5 January 1976, 24-26; Rob Warden, "Fear A-Plant Terror Raids Would Peril Millions--U.S. Study," Chicago Daily News, 28 November 1975.

32. FBI Director to Deputy Attorney General, 24 December 1975, and Lee V. Gossick to Morris K. Udall, 4 June 1976, NRC Records.

33. Natural Resources Defense Council Petition for Adoption of Emergency Safeguard Measures, or, Alternatively, for Revocation of Licenses, 2 February 1976, NRC Records; "Ecologists Urge Atom Safeguards," New York Times, 3 February 1976. The NRC denied the petition, largely on the basis that there was no need for emergency measures and that it was considering ways to improve existing conditions. The NRDC was (as it still is) an environmental group that specializes in using legal tactics and intervention to challenge state and federal government actions on a variety of issues, including but not limited to nuclear issues.

34. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, Safeguards in the Domestic Nuclear Industry, 139-95; "Domestic Safeguards Probed," Nuclear Industry, March 1976, 12-14.

35. "Special Safeguards Study: Scopes of Work" (n. 28 above); Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Annual Report, 1976, 220.

36. SECY-76-242A (26 April 1976), NRC Records; "NRC Stiffens Security Rules," Nuclear Industry, March 1977, 30; "New Physical Protection Requirements Adopted," Nuclear News, April 1977, 39-40; Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, Safeguards in the Domestic Nuclear Industry, 144-46, 253-58.

37. Byron Lee Jr. to Henry R. Myers, 13 September 1977, Box 271 (Interior Committee, Nuclear Issues: Miscellaneous Reports and Memos to Myers), Papers of Morris K. Udall, University of Arizona, Tucson; "Trap in Safeguard Deadline, Security Gear Makers Warn," Nuclear Industry, July 1977, 25-27; "NRC Studies 'Pat Down Rule," Nuclear Industry, October 1977, 25; "Nuclear News Briefs," Nuclear News, October 1977, 21; "Interveners Winning Security Overkill," Nuclear News, January 1978, 22.

38. "Federal Security Force Not Needed," Nuclear News, August 1976, 27; "No Federal Force Needed at This Time--NRC," Nuclear News, October 1976, 86; "Study Shows Private Guards Can Handle Job," Nuclear Industry, September 1976, 32.

39. Kenneth R. Chapman to the commission, 24 May 1976; J. M. Felton to Samuel J. Chilk, 15 November 1979; and SECY-79-187 (16 March 1979), NRC Records.

40. David M. Rosenbaum, "Nuclear Terror," International Security 1 (1977): 140-61.

41. Wiebe E. Bijker and John Law, introduction to Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), 13. For further analyses of closure, see the following essays in that collection: Bijker, "The Social Construction of Fluorescent Lighting, or How an Artifact Was Invented in Its Diffusion Stage," 75-102; Thomas J. Misa, "Controversy and Closure in Technological Change: Constructing 'Steel'," 109-39; and Adri de la Bruheze, "Closing the Ranks: Definition and Stabilization of Radioactive Wastes in the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1945-1960," 140-74. Bijker and Misa show how social groups with divergent interests reached closure that was mutually agreeable. De la Bruheze argues that the AEC "socially shaped" and "stabilized" the debate over radioactive waste in the 1950s. See also Bijker, Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change (Cambridge, Mass., 1995).

42. Joseph G. Morone and Edward J. Woodhouse, Averting Catastrophe: Strategies for Regulating Risky Technologies (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1986), and The Demise of Nuclear Energy? Lessons for Democratic Control of Technology (New Haven, Conn., 1989).

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