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Openness Press Conference Fact Sheets

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U.S. Department of Energy
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Program Contact: Richard Fein
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Openness Press Conference Fact Sheets
(December 22, 1997)


Proposed Rulemakings on Whistleblower Protection
DOE Openness Policy Continues to Bear Fruit
More Declassification of Documents – Openness Continues at DOE DOE Releases Additional Nuclear Testing and Plutonium Inventory Information

Proposed Rulemakings on Whistleblower Protection


The Department of Energy is expanding protections to contractor employees who report safety concerns throughout the former nuclear weapons complex and research laboratories and who may have been subject to retaliation. The Department is proposing to strengthen and streamline the Contractor Employee Protection Program in a Federal Register Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Also, the Department, in connection with its contract reform efforts, is proposing to disallow contractor litigation costs for whistleblower cases when a contractor receives an adverse decision in an administrative or judicial proceeding. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the allowability of contractor "Costs Associated with Whistleblower Actions," encourages mediation rather than litigation to resolve whistleblower cases while reducing costs to the taxpayer.


Strengthening and Streamlining Contractor Employee Protection Program

The Department's Contractor Employee Protection Program was created in April 1992 to provide protection for contractor employees who believe they have been subjected to retaliation for disclosing information on environmental, safety, health and other concerns, for participating in Congressional proceedings, or for refusing to engage in illegal or dangerous activities. The process has four phases: (1) an informal resolution or mediation stage; (2) an inspector general investigation; (3) an administrative hearing with the Office of Hearings and Appeals; and if necessary (4) a final appeal to the Secretary of Energy. Over the years, concerns have been raised about the effectiveness and the timeliness of the program. In September 1996, the Department announced that it would solicit comments from interested parties on how to improve the process and, on October 25, 1996, a Notice of Inquiry was published in the Federal Register and public comment was invited.

The Department has incorporated comments, as appropriate, in the proposed rule and is again inviting comment before finalizing the rule. Significant improvements in the proposed Contractor Employee Protection Program include:

Limiting Contractor Reimbursements on Whistleblower Litigation Costs

This proposed rule would authorize contracting officers to disallow litigation costs where a contractor has been found liable in a whistleblower case. Historically, the Department has reimbursed contractors for litigation costs in whistleblower cases regardless of the outcome of the case. The new proposal is designed to strengthen the ability of the Department's contractor employees to raise concerns relating to waste, fraud and abuse, environment, safety and health, and other matters. The new rule makes clear that, in normal cases, DOE will not pay for contractors to defend their retaliatory conduct against employees. Rather, the new rule encourages the use of ADR mechanisms to resolve such cases before they get mired in the administrative process or litigation.

The proposal was initiated in response to the Department's October 1994 initiative on whistleblower reform. It is an additional piece of the Department's Contract Reform Initiative, and will further amend the Department of Energy Acquisition Regulation (DEAR). Since 1995, DOE has insisted that all new prime contracts contain a provision restricting the reimbursement of whistleblower litigation costs. The rule will codify that practice into a formal regulation.


Q. What was the impetus for modifying the current contractor employee protection program?

A. The Contractor Employee Protection Program was created in April 1992. After four years of experience under the program, employee representatives, contractors, complainants, and DOE officials familiar with the system all indicated that changes and refinements to the rule were warranted. In particular, users of the program have expressed a need to streamline and speed up the process.

Q. Has there been any public involvement in either identifying desired changes or in suggesting improvements?

A. In October 1996, the Department issued a Notice of Inquiry that gave the public an opportunity to comment on the operation of the program and to make recommendations for improvements. Twenty-eight organizations and individuals made comments. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking contains a summary of the comments as well as our responses, and invites public comments on the new proposal.

Q. What are the most important changes being proposed?

A. There are two critical changes being proposed that will speed up and streamline the process. They are (1) providing complainants the opportunity to proceed directly to a hearing if attempts to mediate a resolution are unsuccessful; and (2) offering complainants the right to request a hearing if, after having elected to seek an inquiry by the Office of Inspector General's (IG) Office of Inspections, a Report of Inquiry has not been issued within 240 days of the case having been referred to the IG.

Q. If complainants elect to forego an inquiry by the Office of Inspector General's Office of Inspections, aren't they at a severe disadvantage in trying to prove their case without having access to contractor documents and witnesses?

A. A quicker resolution of the complaint is made by deferring the IG investigation. In addition, the proposed rule would permit the parties to engage in reasonable discovery as part of the hearing process.

Q. Aren't there already protections for whistleblowers available outside of this program, and doesn't this program duplicate other protections?

A. The current program specifies that employees covered by procedures administered under certain Department of Labor whistleblower protections, as well as employees who are pursuing cases under state or other applicable statutes, cannot use this program. The proposed rule maintains that limitation. In addition, it expressly excludes from coverage allegations of reprisal that are subject to review by the Office of Inspector General as a result of the provisions of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1996.

Q. How much does the DOE spend on whistleblower litigation?

A. We have reliable cost information on whistleblower litigation for the past three years: we spent $1,230,849 in Fiscal Year 1995; $1,183,230 in Fiscal Year 1996; and $855,733 for Fiscal Year 1997, which is a decline of approximately 30 percent in the last 3 years. This decline in contractor costs for whistleblower litigation has occurred since DOE began to require this type of provision in its prime contracts in 1995.

Q. How does this provision affect whistleblower cases?

A. Since the contractor may be forced to pay for litigation costs if it loses a whistleblower case, the proposed rule creates an incentive for the contractor to use mediation to resolve worker complaints instead of immediately pursuing costly and often protracted litigation. The whistleblower remedial process does not address the environment, safety and health complaint per se; rather, it is limited to the claim that a whistleblower has suffered retaliation because of any environment, safety and health (or other) disclosure.

DOE Openness Policy Continues to Bear Fruit


The Department of Energy and the Department of Defense today agreed on the disposition of the largest single group of changes to classification policy in the history of the nuclear weapons program. Such a broad top to bottom technical review of DOE's classification policies is unprecedented. The release of the "Joint Statement by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense on the Joint Disposition of the Recommendations of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review" completes a two-year interagency effort with considerable public assistance to review, revise, and update classification policies. The purpose of the review was designed to identify the areas of classified information that require continued protection for national security and nonproliferation reasons as a result of the end of the Cold War, and to identify information that can be declassified. Selected examples of the approximately 70 declassification areas are attached. The specific declassifications will be announced after technical classification guidance is issued to implement the changes.


Today's Joint Statement marks the culmination of a two-year effort to update the policies underlying the U.S. Government classification of nuclear weapons related information and results from an unprecedented level of cooperation among multiple government departments, agencies and the public on classification policy based on the Atomic Energy Act.

The Department of Energy today released all unclassified portions of the report of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review Group so that the public can better understand and evaluate the process that has led to the agreement.







Q. What is the significance of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review?

A. The Fundamental Classification Policy Review is the first comprehensive technically based review of classification policy and practice for nuclear weapons related information in DOE history. We anticipate that the future generations of classified documents at DOE will be significantly reduced as a result of the review, once updated technical classification guidance is in place. The updated guidance also will allow the DOE to declassify more historical documents than currently permitted.

Q. How do I obtain a copy of the report?

A. We are placing the report on DOE OpenNet, which can be accessed via the DOE homepage at Or, if you cannot access the Internet, please submit requests to Mr. W. Gerald Gibson, Director, Technical Guidance Division, Office of Classification, NN-522, U.S. Department of Energy, 19901 Germantown Road, Germantown, MD 20874, telephone (301) 903-3689, facsimile (301) 903-7444.

Q. What agencies reviewed the Fundamental Classification Policy Review report?

A. The Department of Energy has direct responsibility under the Atomic Energy Act for Restricted Data and has joint responsibility with the Department of Defense for Formerly Restricted DatA. The Department of State, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Intelligence Community provided support and assistance.

Q. What types of classified information are being considered for upgrading to higher classification protection?

A. The interagency working group is considering critical nuclear weapons design details andinformation related to weapon use control for higher protection.




The Secretary of Energy is today signing a final rule, 10 CFR 1045, that codifies the Openness Initiative. For more than 50 years, the Department managed its implementation of the classification requirements of the Atomic Energy Act without having specific regulations. The regulation, "Nuclear Classification and Declassification," will formally regulate for the first time how the Department does business with respect to the classification and declassification of nuclear related information, ensuring an ongoing commitment to openness and accountability to the public. The Department believes it is the first agency to promulgate such detailed rules. After Secretary Peña's signature today, the final regulation will be published in the Federal Register within the next week.



Four recent studies have examined Department of Energy classification policies and procedures: the Classification Policy Study (July 1992); a study of the Atomic Energy Act (January 1994); the National Academy of Sciences' A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice (August 1995); and the Fundamental Classification Policy Review (January 1997); and the Openness Advisory Panel report, Responsible Openness: An Imperative for the Department of Energy (August 1997). All of the studies have concluded that changes are required to the Restricted Data classification system. Meetings with public stakeholders have confirmed that a regulatory approach is the most effective means to implement changes in a timely manner.


Q. How can I get a copy of this regulation?

A. Plans are to publish the regulation in the Federal Register this week. It will also be placed on the DOE OpenNet site via the DOE homepage at A copy may be also obtained from Janet O'Connell, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Classification, 19901 Germantown Road, Germantown, Maryland 20874-1290, telephone (301) 903-1113, facsimile (301) 903-1230.

Q. Did you accept any of the comments submitted by the public during the 60-day comment period and actually change the regulation as a result?

A. Yes. Each and every public comment was carefully evaluated and many of them were incorporated in the final regulation. A summary of public comments and their disposition can be found in the "Discussion of Comments" section in the final regulation.

Q. Doesn't establishing classification and declassification requirements in the form of a Federal Regulation give the Department less flexibility to modify the program?

A. Yes. In fact, the intent of the regulation is to ensure the Department continues to pursue openness and does not have the flexibility to abandon it. Changing a Federal Regulation is more difficult than modifying internal agency procedures and will require that the Department give serious thought to the need for changes and include public participation before any changes are made.

Q. What kind of information will be published in the Restricted Data Annual Report that will be publicly released each year?

A. We plan to include information about major openness initiatives being pursued, the declassification proposals we are considering, statistics on document declassification review efforts, and the identification of impediments to openness in DOE, among other things. Since 1997 will be the first year for which the report is issued, we are still seeking input from the public as to what they want included.


The Openness Advisory Panel (OAP), a standing panel of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), delivered its report titled, Responsible Openness: An Imperative for the Department of Energy, to the Secretary of Energy. The report is the culmination of a 12-month study of the DOE's Openness Initiative by the Panel.


The report emphasizes the critical role of openness as the Department strives to accomplish its many and varied missions. The report's theme is: Openness is the foundation for success in all the Department's activities.

The report contains three major recommendations. They are:

Other highlights include:


The Openness Advisory Panel is chaired by Dr. Richard A. Meserve. It is composed of eleven other members, all experts in their respective fields and all having an interest in the DOE and its programs. They volunteer their services to the Government.

The panel was tasked to recommend measures to improve public access to Department of Energy information, suggest specific declassification actions, identify priorities for systematic document declassification reviews, and advise on significant access and classification issues.


Q. How can I obtain a copy of the report?

A. The report is available on the DOE OpenNet which can be accessed via the DOE Homepage at Or, if you cannot access the Internet, a copy of the report may be obtained by calling Mr. Richard Lyons in the Office of Classification at (301) 903-6936 or Mr. Richard Burrow, Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, at (202) 586-1709.

Q. What are the Openness Advisory Panel's next steps?

A. Dr. Richard Meserve identified for the Secretary of Energy the following items for future study by the Panel:

Q. Does the Department of Energy accept the recommendations of the Openness Advisory Panel and, if so, when will it begin implementation?

A. At the September 3, 1997, meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, the Secretary of Energy committed the Department to taking positive actions to increase openness in the Department, and challenged the Openness Advisory Panel to help guide the Department into the future. Implementation of some of the recommendations has already begun, while action on others will begin shortly. For example, the chief information officer has been assigned to the Deputy Secretary to improve records management and public accessability to the Department's records. The Openness Advisory Panel will continue to monitor the Department's implementation of recommendations of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review.

More Declassification of Documents – Openness Continues at DOE


Today, the Department of Energy through its OpenNet web site is releasing over 270,000 additional pages of declassified documents originating from the Richland Operations Office. For almost 50 years the principal function of what is known as the Hanford Site was to operate nuclear reactors designed to produce plutonium for the U.S. nuclear weapons program. These historical documents were declassified as part of the ongoing large-scale declassification review process at Richland. They cover much of the Hanford Site weapons grade plutonium production, reprocessing, and radioactive releases from the 1940s through the 1980s. This addition approximately doubles the number of declassified pages available on OpenNet.


The documents released today contain information on Hanford Site operations from the Manhattan Project's early days in the 1940's to the present Environmental Restoration Project. Nearly 40 percent of the documents concern nuclear reactor operations, approximately 20 percent relate to nuclear material production, and another 20 percent relate to science and technology. A number of documents contain information on radiation protection, monitoring and release activities at the Hanford Site. Also released are documents concerning the environment, safety and health, chemical processing, waste storage and treatment, nuclear material storage and shipping, and other general research activities.

Historians interested in the early years of the Atomic Energy Commission at Hanford will find documents that provide a wealth of information in this regard. The Hanford Document Number 64029-REV1-DEL, dated June 30, 1957, titled Manager's Data Book, describes the local population and how it was affected by the establishment of the Hanford Site. Details include the number of students enrolled in public schools and the amounts of the AEC payment to offset the additional cost to educate the children of Hanford employees.

An earlier document, DDTS-53, Village Report – Hanford Engineer Works, details the original issues of locating and planning an all new small city of 7,750 people. This report provides an interesting perspective from the point of view of the Hanford Site contractor at the time, E. I. du Pont De Nemours and Company (du Pont).

A large amount of useful information is found in two other du Pont documents, Design and Procurement History of Hanford Engineer Works and Clinton Semi-Works, Volumes 1 & 2. These volumes explain how the company "reluctantly" responded to urgent requests by the Government to design, build and operate a commercial sized plant that would produce a new chemical element, transmuted from uranium, i.e., plutonium, for nuclear weapons. Volume 1 provides detailed discussion on the origin of the Manhattan Project and the secrecy with which this enormous effort was shrouded. The challenges of building such a plant, in wartime and in secret, were unprecedented and the discussion provided in this single document helps the reader better understand the highly complex forces that brought the Hanford Site into existence. Volume 2 describes the unique procurement challenges of building a vast production site and the city to service it, during wartime.

Environmental historians can now view online documents concerning the local environment such as Hanford Doc. No. HW-72819, dated February 26, 1962, River Contamination Reduction Studies, An Evaluation of the Artificial Lake Concept. The study provides a cost versus benefit analysis of developing an artificial lake to hold contaminated wastewater as an alternative to direct release into the Columbia River from the nuclear reactors. It concludes that a lake is unjustified because of reduced costs and reduced decontamination efforts for the direct release option.

Interested researchers will also find documents such as HW-29411, dated September 22, 1953, Airborne Particulate Contamination, an analysis of AEC concerns about the levels and origin of radioactive particulate contamination in the Pacific Northwest. The report provides an analysis of the origin of higher than anticipated radioactive contamination occurring off the Hanford Site.

An example of a document of general interest to all parties is DDTS-197, Press Conference Questions and Answers, Hanford Ground Contamination, dated September 21, 1954. These questions and answers were sent from the Richland Field Office to the Headquarters of the Atomic Energy Commission to assist in preparation of responses to press inquiries regarding the effects of radioactive "particles" on the local inhabitants in the surrounding Hanford Sitecommunities. The questions and answers address the extent and nature of the contamination. Language used in the questions and answers reflects the attitude of that era that radioactive contamination of this sort was not of major concern.


Q. How do I get access to the documents?

A. The documents may be accessed by using the Internet and accessing the OpenNet "Home Pages" ( With OpenNet, you can search for records of interest and gain immediate access to the full texts of the documents.

Q. Many of these documents seem totally unrelated to national security. Why were they classified in the first place?

A. In the early days of the Atomic Energy Commission, most documents were classified. Many of the documents were classified because they would have permitted useful estimates concerning the amount of plutonium produced at the Hanford Site. The amount of plutonium produced at Hanford was declassified a few years ago as part of the Department's openness initiative, and now the documents can be released.

Q. How were these documents declassified?

A. The documents were declassified as part of the large scale declassification program at the Richland Operations Office which has been a leader among the DOE Operations Offices in declassifying documents. The program is ongoing and more documents will be placed on OpenNet periodically.

Q. How do I obtain copies of documents I find on OpenNet?

A. For today's release, full text images are available online. Your Internet browser can download these images to print or to save on your computer. In addition to today's release, OpenNet has over 325,000 "online" abstracts that describe documents available at locations throughout the country. You can write to the indicated location shown on OpenNet and request these documents.


The Department of Energy is releasing a series of declassified films on the nuclear weapons program, which document the development of nuclear weapons. Among the subject matter in these films are atomic cannons, small hand-carried nuclear munitions, and tests on animals designed to determine the effects of nuclear weapons on military personnel. Most date from the late 1950's into the 1960's. These films were declassified at the DOE Albuquerque Operations Office with the cooperation of the Department of Defense. In addition to declassifying these and many more films, DOE is converting the old deteriorating celluloid film to digital data stored on magnetic tapes to preserve the information.





Two films on Operation Upshot-Knothole are being released today. Operation Upshot-Knothole consisted of 11 atmospheric detonations, took place at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. There were three airdrops, seven tower shots and one warhead fired from an atomic cannon. An experiment in this testing was to determine the effects of a nuclear explosion on a B-50 aircraft. About 21,000 military personnel participated in Upshot-Knothole as part of the Desert Rock V exercise. One event, the Harry shot, drew a great deal of criticism for producing off-site radiation exposures from fallout.


In May 1955, a model submarine experiment submerged beneath a floating barge vanished after a 30-kiloton Operation Wigwam blast. The U.S. Navy wanted to learn how much of a nuclear punch a well-built submarine could take. Regrettably, high winds and rough seas in the area about 500 miles southwest of San Diego prevented recovery of much of the test datA. About 6,500 personnel took part in Operation Wigwam.


The Sedan test was conducted on July 6, 1962. The purpose of Sedan was to determine whether nuclear devices could be used in earth moving to dig canals or create harbors. The Sedan test created a 1,280-foot-diameter, 320-foot-deep crater. The yield was 104 kilotons, displaced 12 million tons of earth, and released seismic energy equivalent to 4.75 on the Richter Scale. Besides the spectacular crater, the film clearly shows the bubbling up process of the earth during this type of test.


Two films on Operation Redwing are being released today. Operation Redwing was a 17-shot nuclear weapons tests series conducted at the Pacific Proving Ground in 1956. The Atomic Energy Commission tested thermonuclear devices that could not be tested at the Nevada Test Site. The AEC made progress in miniaturization of warheads, and Redwing further advanced the AEC's designs of nuclear weapons which produced minimal fallout and nuclear warheads for missiles. Several thousand military personnel and civilian employees of the AEC and the Department of Defense witnessed or participated in the nuclear events. Fifteen American radio and television reporters observed two of these events.


Two films on Operation Plumbbob are being released today. Operation Plumbob, conducted in 1957, represented the biggest, longest, and most controversial test series in the history of the Nevada Test Site. Plumbbob had the tallest tower shots to date, as well as high altitude ballon shots, both efforts designed to reduce fallout from the tests. In addition, the first underground nuclear test was conducted during this series. Some 18,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces participated in exercises Desert Rock VII and VIII, which was part of Operation Plumbbob. This film shows the testing of animals to determine biological effects and thereby reduce combat casualties to U.S. service personnel.


Four films on Operation Hardtack, covering parts I and II, are being released today. Operation Hardtack I featured 35 nuclear tests in the Pacific. The operation consisted of a variety of events, including land and water surface events, underwater detonations, high altitude balloon tests and high altitude rocket-borne tests. The first part of Hardtack I aimed at the development of new nuclear weapons, with national laboratories firing experimental devices. The second part consisted of two underwater shots to improve the understanding of how these weapons affect Navy ships and material. The third part addressed newer military problems -- nuclear weapons in air and ballistic missile defense. A portion of Hardtack I was devoted to testing a warhead for the Polaris missile.

Operation Hardtack II was the continental phase that followed the Hardtack I Pacific series. In 1958, 19 nuclear weapons tests and 18 safety tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site, including both atmospheric and underground tests. The test personnel tested nuclear devices for possible inclusion in the nuclear stockpile, safety features of nuclear devices were tested, and containment techniques were used for underground detonations. The safety experiments were designed to determine the stability of nuclear devices during transportation and storage.


All of Operation Nougat's nuclear events, except for the Gnome shot in southern New Mexico, were in shafts or tunnels at the Nevada Test Site in 1961. The events were for nuclear weapons development purposes, the start of research on the Plowshare Program for civilian uses of nuclear energy from devices, and for the Vela Uniform which was a program for detecting nuclear explosions underground. Also, Vela Uniform could use ground-based instruments for detecting explosions in outer space and establishing satellite-based instruments for detection of explosions in outer space.


In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. developed lightweight nuclear devices to use in the interest of U.S. national security. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) was a Navy and Marine project that demonstrated the feasability of a parachutist jumping out of a plane carrying a small nuclear weapon to be deposited in a strategic location that could be accessed from the seA. Another parachutist without a weapon would follow him down to give support as needed. Afterward, the swimmers were picked up by boat. While the procedures were practiced extensively, SADM was never used. These types of weapons are no longer in the stockpile.


The Ivy Flats tactical military exercise at the Nevada Test Site involved the detonation of a single live nuclear round fired from the Davy Crockett artillery piece during a simulated battle. The Davy Crockett was developed to give U.S. Army units an effective nuclear capability against potentially larger units of Soviet armored forces and its capability was demonstrated to high ranking U. S. government officials and representatives from allied governments. Deployed from 1961 to 1972, the artillery piece was replaced by nuclear-carrying missiles and aircraft.


Q. How will the public be able to get copies of the films?

A. Copies of the films will be available from the National Archives and Records Administration or by requesting them from:

Coordination and Information Center
Bechtel Nevada
ATTN: Martha DeMarre, Program Manager, Mailstop NLV-040
P.O. Box 98521
Las Vegas, Nevada 89193-8521

Q. How soon will the videos be available?

A. There are an additional 15 films available today. A listing of the films available will be posted on the Internet as they become available.

Q. Is there any cost for the videos?

A. Yes, the cost is $10 per video in a VHS format.

Q. Why were these films classified in the first place? Why can they be declassified now?

A. The films were classified to protect information that would have assisted strategic adversaries and nuclear proliferants. Due to the end of the Cold War, much information no longer is of national security significance. However, many of the films will have deletions of still classified information.

DOE Releases Additional Nuclear Testing and Plutonium Inventory Information


The Department of Energy and the Department of Defense have jointly declassified the specific yields of 11 nuclear tests conducted between 1962 and 1968 at the Nevada Test Site, including three tests that, as previously announced, leaked radioactivity. Also declassified are the yields of two detonations that, together with another detonation whose yield has already been declassified, constituted a singletest. All these tests took place at the Nevada Test Site as part of the Peaceful Uses for Nuclear Explosives program. With the declassification, the United States now has declassified the yields of all 27 Plowshare tests and 35 detonations. A series of tests to explore the feasibility of using nuclear explosions for excavation, for stimulating the production of natural gas from marginal fields, and for other peaceful uses began with the detonation Gnome on December 10, 1961, in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and concluded with Rio Blanco on May 17, 1973, in Rifle, Colorado. Available today is the executive summary of a report, "Plowshare Program," to be published next year by the U.S. DOE Nevada Operations Office.

This declassification reveals the specific yields of all tests and detonations that were conducted to develop nuclear explosives specifically designed for use in civilian projects.


The declassification reveals the yields of the following 11 nuclear tests and 2 detonations conducted between 1962 and 1970 at the Nevada Test Site:

Nuclear Test
Yield (kt)

The two detonations declassified today, Flask Yellow and Flask Red, were conducted simultaneously with Flask Green (105 kt) on May 26, 1970.

Details are provided in Attachment 1 and will be reproduced in the next edition (Rev 15) of DOE/NV-209, "United States Nuclear Tests, July 1945 through September 1992."


"Plowshare" was the name of the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) program for developing industrial and scientific uses for nuclear explosives. It was based on the idea that tremendous and relatively inexpensive energy released in a nuclear explosion could be used for constructive purposes. The program included laboratory research and analyses of data; design, development, and testing of the explosive devices; and field experiments. The field tests of the nuclear explosives were conducted at the Nevada Test Site, Carlsbad and Farmington, New Mexico, and Grand Valley and Rifle, Colorado, and are shown on Attachment 2. Most Plowshare explosions were totally contained underground. In a few cases the nuclear explosive was at a shallow depth and upon detonation produced a crater. The contained detonations shattered rock underground and demonstrated the possibilities for mining and for gas and oil production. The cratering tests demonstrated the capability to move earth for the construction of harbors, dams, canals, and storage reservoirs. Information released is based on evaluating available records; it may be updated or revised based on re-evaluation of the methodology used originally.

During the years of the Plowshare program, non-nuclear high-explosive experiments were also conducted to provide essential information on cratering, excavation, fracturing, in situ leaching, and gas stimulation. Some of the experiments were specifically conducted as a pre-test for a later Plowshare nuclear test, and some were multipurpose experiments and included use of radioactive tracers. Attachment 3 shows the general locations of the tests.

In addition to the AEC, its laboratories and contractors, and other government agencies, a number of mining, petroleum and public utilities companies, and other commercial interests participated in the Plowshare program.

Although a technical success, nuclear explosives for peaceful purposes were never used by the United States following the Plowshare program. The last U.S. Plowshare test was conducted on May 17, 1973. The United States and the Soviet Union, which conducted many more Plowshare-type explosions than the United States, signed a treaty on May 28, 1976, that established the limitations for conducting nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes.

The release of the additional information should encourage other nations to declassify similar test information. Use of these yields in fallout models may increase the confidence residents in the proximity of the test sites have in the accuracy of estimates of potential contamination of specific areas. This information is now available to environmental, safety, and health organizations.

The U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. have declassified much information concerning nuclear tests. The U.S. detonated 35 nuclear explosions in 27 peaceful nuclear tests, the last of which occurred on May 17, 1973. Russia publicly released information that the U.S.S.R. detonated 173 nuclear explosives in 156 peaceful nuclear tests, the last of which occurredon September 6, 1988. By releasing this information today, the United States is acting as a responsible leader in nuclear information transparency.

United States Nuclear Tests -- Plowshare -- By Date
Detonation Name Date (GCT) Location Type Purpose Yield
    Multiple-purpose experiment
    in salt
    Formed cavity 160-170 ft.
    diameter, 60-80 ft. high
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected off-site
12/10/61 Carlsbad,
New Mexico
Shaft Plowshare 3 kt
    Excavation experiment
    Crater 1280 ft. diameter,
    320 ft. deep
    Thermonuclear device
    Release of radioactivity
    detected off-site
07/06/62 NTS Crater Plowshare 104 kt
1. Anacostia
    Device development
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected on-site
11/27/62 NTS Shaft Plowshare 5.2 kt
2. Kaweah
    Device development
02/21/63 NTS Shaft Plowshare 3 kt
3. Tornillo
    Device development
10/11/63 NTS Shaft Plowshare .38 kt
4. Klickitat
    Device development
02/20/64 NTS Shaft Plowshare 70 kt
    Device development
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected on- site only
06/11/64 NTS Shaft Plowshare 3 kt
    Device development
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected on-site only
06/30/64 NTS Shaft Plowshare 11.7 kt
    Isotope production and
    explosive development
10/09/64 NTS Shaft Plowshare 38 kt
    Effects of contained explosion
    in carbonate rock
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected on-site only
11/05/64 NTS Shaft Plowshare 12 kt
    Excavation test of explosive
    buried at greater depth
    in relation to yield
    Produced mound of broken rock
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected off-site
12/18/64 NTS Shaft Plowshare 92 tons
    Release of radioactivity
    detected off-site
04/14/65 NTS Crater Plowshare 4.3 kt
    Excavation device development
03/24/66 NTS Shaft Plowshare .37 kt
    Device development
    Heavy element production
06/25/66 NTS Shaft Plowshare 25 kt
    Excavation device development
07/28/66 NTS Shaft Plowshare 1.2 kt
    Excavation device development
11/05/66 NTS Shaft Plowshare 2.3 kt
10. Switch
    Excavation device development
06/22/67 NTS Shaft Plowshare 3.1 kt
    Emplacement technique experiment
    Accidental release of radioactivity
    detected on-site only
09/21/67 NTS Shaft Plowshare 2.2 kt
    Joint Government/industry gas
    stimulation experiment
12/10/67 Farmington, New Mexico Shaft Plowshare 29 kt
    Release of radioactivity detected
01/26/68 NTS Crater Plowshare 2.3 kt
    Simultaneous, separate holes
    Row charge experiment --
    five simultaneous detonations
03/12/68 NTS
1.08 kt
1.08 kt
1.08 kt
1.08 kt
1.08 kt
11. Stoddard
    Excavation device development
09/17/68 NTS Shaft Plowshare 31 kt
    Release of radioactivity
    detected off site
12/08/68 NTS Crater Plowshare 30 kt
    Joint Government/industry
    gas stimulation experiment
    Operational release of radioactivity
    detected off site
09/10/69 Grand Valley, Colorado Shaft Plowshare 40 kt
Flask-Green 05/26/70 NTS Shaft Plowshare 105 kt
Flask-Yellow*** 05/26/70 NTS Shaft Plowshare .09 kt
    Simultaneous, separate holes
    Device development
    Accidential release of radioactivity
    detected on site only
05/26/70 NTS Shaft Plowshare .04 kt
    Device development experiment
07/08/71 NTS Shaft Plowshare 83 kt
Rio Blanco-1 05/17/73 Rifle, Colorado Shaft Plowshare 33 kt
Rio Blanco-2 05/17/73 Rifle, Colorado Shaft Plowshare 33 kt
Rio Blanco-3
    Simultaneous, same hole
    Joint Government/industry gas
    stimulation experiment
05/17/73 Rifle, Colorado Shaft Plowshare 33 kt

***     Recently declassified yields of two detonations, Flask Yellow and Flask Red, which were detonated simultaneously with Flask-Green.

Recently declassified nuclear tests are numbered and shaded.




The Department of Energy committed to provide any additional information that could be released regarding plutonium inventories. DOE, with the cooperation of the United Kingdom (UK) Government, is releasing additional information regarding nuclear materials barters, i.e., the quantity of plutonium received from the UK and the tritium and highly enriched uranium provided to the UK under each of the individual Barters (A, B, and C). In addition, the Department is releasing information regarding the quality of the plutonium in terms of Pu-240 content. The release of this information will provide the public with more information regarding plutonium inventories.


  Barter A
1960 - 1969
Barter B
1964 - 1969
Barter C
1975 - 1979
Plutonium Received from the UK 0.5 metric tons 4.1 metric tons 0.8 metric tons 5.4 metric tons
Tritium Delivered to the UK 6.0 kilograms None 0.7 kilograms 6.7 kilograms
HEU Delivered to the UK None 7.5 metric tons None 7.5 metric tons

The Pu - 240 content of the 5.4 metric tons received under the barters was as follows:

Pu - 240 content Metric Tons Received
2% 0.1
10 - 12% 1.2
13 - 15% 1.9
16 - 20% 2.2
Total 5.4


* This change is included in the new Regulation, but requires amending the Atomic Energy Act for complete implementation.

** Included in new regulation.