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FAS Introduction: The U.S. naval nuclear propulsion program, like much of the government, practices an arbitrary and sometimes irrational secrecy policy. Even the Department of Energy has found reason to criticize nuclear navy secrecy, as in the following internal memorandum obtained by the Federation of American Scientists. It is reprinted below in its entirety.


Washington, D.C. 20585

July 10, 1995




The purpose of this note is to follow up on our June 28, 1995, conversations concerning inconsistencies in naval reactor classification guidance and practices, and provide examples of why the Office of Naval Reactors (NR) should be consistent with the rest of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review.

There are inconsistencies in NR classification guidance and practices compared to guidance for other programs of the Department. The following provides a few examples:

NR CLASSIFICATION GUIDE (This applies to DOE sites as well as Navy sites)

* Health, safety, and environmental information in regard to workers and service personnel is only unclassified if it does not involve specific naval nuclear propulsion plant components, equipment or systems, and does not reveal militarily significant aspects. This guidance has a significant chilling impact which causes the health, safety, and environmental information to be classified thoroughly in practice. For example, radiation exposures for workers and service personnel in groups, by shipboard timeframes, are not available to the public. Furthermore, there have been media reports of service personnel being disciplined for making public complaints over lax radioactive contamination control practices.

* Planned "foreign ports of call" for nuclear powered surface ships are classified and actual calls are seldom announced. However, the ports of call can be and are available in foreign news media, but not to the American public.

* Radiological Control Practices Evaluations (appraisals) are classified including the fact that evaluations even occur, regardless of whether they were past, present, or future. These evaluations are not classified by other program guidance and the practice of classifying these evaluations would be considered a coverup if classified by other DOE programs. An example is the report on the Knoll Atomic Power Laboratory (a DOE site) of a few years ago, in which significant health, safety, and environmental information was classified by NR. When the Office of Classification (now the Office of Declassification) complained over improper classification and coverup of health, safety, and environmental problems, NR had the prior Administration's Under Secretary direct the classification. Even the need for "a dedicated ambulance driver" and "the ambulance had been driven in a reckless manner when responding to the call" were classified. The unavailability of safety equipment (e.g., breathing equipment and fire extinguisher) was also classified. It is unquestionable that health, safety, and environmental information in the report was classified by NR. For example, the following paragraph was classified:

"A piece of scaffolding was cocked at an angle because it was warped and several areas where people could step were covered with only yellow herculite, with no staging underneath. These conditions represented safety problems."

In summary, there are substantial differences in classification practices between NR and the rest of DOE and the purpose of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review is to evaluate all DOE classification policies and recommend changes in an integrated package. The overall DOE Fundamental Classification Policy Review is being done on a coordinated effort (e.g., weapons science, weapons production, etc.) with public input and interagency evaluation. Without evaluation by the Fundamental Classification Policy Review in draft format, the NR effort will likely not end up being consistent with the context of DOE's overall effort.

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