MAY 24, 2007
The nation’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility has for weeks been vulnerable to a terrorist attack because the plant’s specially trained guards are on strike.
Located in the high plains of Amarillo Texas, the 16,000-acre Pantex Plant is operated by a private contractor for the Department of Energy. The company dedicates 524 highly trained and heavily armed guards to Pantex, making the nuclear weapons facility the country’s most heavily guarded industrial plant.
But the guards have been on strike for six weeks, leaving the facility dangerously vulnerable and contradicting its motto of maintaining the safety, security and reliability of America’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
This week the Department of Energy finally sent a top security official to Texas to assess the situation. Since the strike began, about 200 bomb couriers and guards from other areas have been assigned to Pantex, but the plant that stores fully assembled hydrogen bombs has gone without the topnotch security the government has promised Americans.
Some lawmakers believe nuclear plant guards must become federal employees rather than continue to operate as private contractors. The Michigan congressman who chairs the House energy committee, points out that the guards are asked to protect our most dangerous, most secretive weapons yet are treated like third-class citizens.
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