NEW YORK TIMES
Wednesday, March 14, 1990

Arms Plant Problems Are Disclosed by Mistake

CARSON CITY, Nev., March 13 (AP) A daily briefing paper for Energy Secretary James D. Watkins was inadvertently faxed to governors' offices Monday, listing various problems involving radial ion contamination and reactor safely al weapon plants around the nation.

The paper, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, includes reports IO Mr. Watkins that were assembled and were being sent back to Department of Energy offices.

Three hours after the briefing paper was sent out, a note addressed to "all state governors" urged them to disregard and destroy the document. It was not known how many governors' offices had received it.

The document provides an unusual glimpse into the daily routine al Mr. Walk ins' office. But the department's press secretary, M. J. Jameson, said it did not suggest an excessive number of problems. She said the report was instituted by Mr. Watkins as a way IO keep tabs on all department operations.

Discovery of Live Wires

"It indicates we're taking the trouble to find out what's going on and fixing it," she said.

The problems included "widespread low-level contamination" at a tank farm for radioactive liquid waste at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The memorandum mistakenly identified the site as Hanford, Wash., but the department issued a correction today.

The memorandum also reported the discovery of three live wires al a Savannah River reactor building that posed "imminent danger," and an effort to hall the activities of anti-nuclear protesters. Al Hanford, the memorandum said, a fire in a weapons cleaning trailer destroyed the trailer on Friday, but no injuries were reported.

Ms. Jameson said she knew of no actual danger to workers or other people as a result of any of the incidents. "If there was any danger, we would have issued a press release," she said.

Among other things the document said a radiation survey in the control room of a reactor at Oak Ridge, Tenn. found that four chairs and a stool were contaminated with coball-60. Two chairs were disposed of and the other furniture was decontaminated. Another item said a cleanup of "widespread low-level contamination" in the South Carolina lank farm was continuing, cleaning of all paved roads and a radioactivity survey.

Ms. Jameson said there was a recent spill of contaminated water in the tank farm but "it wasn't hazardous to the health of anyone."

Governors were urged to destroy the document, but too late.

Among other reports in the briefing paper were these:

The management at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, | N.M., and the department's office there agreed last . Friday to suspend the operation of a particle beam fusion accelerator after "numerous safety concerns" were identified.

An annual safeguards and security! survey at Sandia showed a shortage of classified parts at a microelectronics operation. The memorandum said that the problem had been reported in January and that a complete inventory would be conducted.

A Sandia subcontractor being escorted into the laboratory was denied access when guards using sniffer dogs found six live rounds of pistol ammunition and traces of marijuana in the person's vehicle.

The department's operations office at Savannah River said that the Westinghouse Savannah River Company had discovered that seismic support U-bolts were missing from some supplementary safely system injection lines on a reactor.

Also at Savannah River, inspectors found three live, bare wires in a reactor building. The wires were fixed and an inquiry is being conducted into what was described as an "imminent danger," Mr. Watkins was advised.

An Energy Department truck convoy was followed and photographed in Texas and Oklahoma by anti-nuclear protesters in two cars last Thursday. The note indicates the authorities looked into the police records of the cars' owners but found no outstanding warrants.

The memorandum was signed by Stephen Ronshaugen in the office of the ! department's Under Secretary.

James D. Watkin