NRC Removes All Nuclear Information from Its Public Website
by Guest Blogger, 11/1/2004
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) pulled its entire public reading room offline last week after stories broke about possibly sensitive material on the website. They agency defended its action by saying it is trying its best to balance security and right-to-know. A Pennsylvania citizen and a national watchdog group recently discovered documents on the NRC website that they believed could aid terrorists. Scott Portzline, an activist, found floor plans and inventories from four university nuclear laboratories, which he thought terrorists could use to acquire nuclear materials. He reported the discovery to a Harrisburg newspaper, which contacted NRC. David Lockbaum, an engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, also found nuclear power station diagrams that detailed toxic chemicals and pipelines in the plant. He contacted the NRC directly and suggested they remove the document. While NRC asserted that portions of these documents should not be publicly available, David Albright from the Institute for Science and International Security disagrees. He told CNN that while NRC's web information might aid terrorists a little, "if someone is determined to do this, it won't help them much. If someone wanted to find this out, they can." In response to these isolated concerns, NRC pulled all of the roughly 700,000 documents from its site, the second time it has done so, instead of selectively removing the handful of documents thought to be too sensitive for public distribution. The agency’s response to 9/11 was to immediately shut down its entire website, not just the public reading room, and then slowly repopulated the site with selective content. While this time the agency says the public reading room information will be reposted quickly, critics see the move as excessive. Removing its entire library of materials severely hinders the public right-to-know.