A recent National Academy of Sciences study of five research reactors at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories left out far more than it actually said. The report, released in August, criticized DOE’s ‘fragmented” oversight of the reactors and concluded that aging and brittle components could be safety hazards. But the published criticisms were muted compared to what the academy told reactor officials in private. In informal sessions held before the report was released, NAS scientists described a long and detailed list of problems that threatened the safety of the reactors. The detailed criticism was omitted from the report “to avoid redundancy,” says NAS panel chairman Richard Meserve.

The report was not the first time the academy had used this tactic. Last year, another NAS panel told DOE informally about serious safety hazards in government reactors that produce materials for nuclear weapons, and DOE immediately cut by more than half...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?