National Nuclear Security Administration

National Nuclear Security Administration
Agency overview
Formed 2000[1]
Employees at least 1,500 (2006)
Annual budget $9.1 billion (2006)
Agency executives Tom D'Agostino, Administrator
Neile L. Miller, Principal Deputy Administrator
Parent agency Department of Energy

The United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is part of the United States Department of Energy. It works to improve national security through the military application of nuclear energy. The NNSA also maintains and improves the safety, reliability, and performance of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile, including the ability to design, produce, and test, in order to meet national security requirements.



The National Nuclear Security Administrations was created by Congressional action in 1999,[2] in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee spy scandal and other allegations that lax administration by the Department of Energy had resulted in the loss of U.S. nuclear secrets to China.[3] Originally proposed to be an independent agency, NNSA gained the reluctant support of the Clinton Administration only after it was instead chartered as a sub-agency within the Department of Energy, to be headed by an Administrator reporting to the Secretary of Energy.[4] The first NNSA Administrator appointed was Air Force General (and CIA Deputy Directory) John A. Gordon.[5]

Mission and operations

NNSA has four missions with regard to National Security:

  • To manage the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • To reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction and to promote international nuclear safety and nonproliferation.
  • To provide the United States Navy with safe, militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants and to ensure the safe and reliable operation of those plants.
  • To support United States leadership in science and technology.

The NNSA's Office of Secure Transportation (OST) provides safe and secure transportation of nuclear weapons and components and special nuclear materials, and conducts other missions supporting the national security of the United States of America. Since 1974, OST has been assigned responsibility to develop, operate, and manage a system for the safe and secure transportation of all government-owned, DOE or NNSA controlled special nuclear materials in "strategic" or "significant" quantities. Shipments are transported in specially designed equipment and are escorted by armed federal agents.

The agency works in more than 130 countries to recover nuclear materials. In its 12-year history it has collected 20,600 dangerous sources of radiation. In 2008, the agency recovered 3,153 radioactive sources. Its current backlog of uncollected items numbers 8,800. The program costs about $15 million a year. Most of the recovered material is stored at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.[6]

Later Data security concerns

The NNSA maintains a database containing personal information on 37,000 persons who design and maintain nuclear weapons for the U. S. government. In June 2006, The New York Times reported that sensitive information on nuclear weapons workers had been stolen from the NNSA, and stated that the theft had gone unreported for nine months following the theft.[7]

On January 5, 2007, President George W. Bush accepted the recommendation of Energy Secretary Bodman to designate Tom D'Agostino as Acting Administrator. Most recently, D'Agostino served as Deputy Administrator of NNSA for Defense Programs.

Safe Recovery of Nuclear Materials

In 2008, the NNSA, in cooperation with Russian and other agencies, helped transport 341 pounds of enriched uranium in 13 radiation proof casks weighing 17,000 lb (7,700 kg) apiece from Budapest to Siberia. In late September 2008 the casks were secretly loaded onto trucks at the Budapest facility and then taken to the city's train station, where it was transported onto a special train for an eight-hour trip to the port of Koper in Slovenia on the Adriatic Sea.

The shipments then moved through the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, up the Atlantic and into the English Channel, the North and Norwegian seas and then on to Murmansk. From there the shipment was loaded on a train for the long trip to Siberia.

This operation was conducted by American and Russian officials to ensure the safe disposal of the radioactive uranium that is highly enriched and weapons-grade. The Hungarian reactor is now being converted to use low-enriched uranium that cannot be used in a weapon and will not be a potential terrorist target.[8]



  1. ^ NNSA Act (Title XXXII of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65)
  2. ^ "National Nuclear Security Administration: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Management of the Nation's Nuclear Programs". Report to the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, U.S. Government Accountability Office. January 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  3. ^ Eric Schmitt, "Spying Furor Brings Vote In Senate For New Unit", The New York Times, July 22, 1999
  4. ^ Eric Schmitt, "In Shift, Secretary Supports Bill That Overhauls Energy Department," The New York Times, September 28, 1999
  5. ^ "C.I.A. Official Chosen for Weapons Agency", The New York Times, March 3, 2000
  6. ^ Paddock, Richard C., "A Hunt For Radioactive Castoffs: Little-known U.S. agency prevents old nuclear material from being used in a terrorist weapon," Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2009, p. 3.
  7. ^ Stout, David (June 10, 2006). "Data Theft at Nuclear Agency Went Unreported for 9 Months". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Hungary". NNSA Press Release. October 23, 2008. Retrieved April 19, 2010. [dead link]

External links

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