The nagging complaints of a career systems analyst have prompted an internal task force at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to recommend changes in the way nuclear submarine fuel and plutonium research fuel is protected from theft and sabotage.
The analyst's name is James H. Conran and for two years he has been writing letters to his commission superiors complaining about the lack of safeguards at 16 secret installations licensed by the commission. Many of the installations fabricate highly enriched uranium into submarine propulsion fuel; others make fuel components out of plutonium for breeder reactor reseafch programs.
Little apparently happened to Conrans complaints until last April 4, when he complained to Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz). chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Udall complained to commission Chairman Marcus Rowden, who set up an eight-man task force to investigate Conran's complaints.
The task force report went to Udall last night with the notation that its recommendations had been classified pending a classification review by the National Security Council. Udall said he would honor that classification but was so angry at having to wait more than one month for the report that he would move to have it unclassified.
"I'm going to push them to settle this classification and I'm going to push hearings on this," Udall said last night. "I'm not happy with their safeguards and I'm not happy that there is an open process within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They dont encourage dissent."
By late last night, the task force recommendations were still classified but it was understood that they had recommended two changes to the Nuclear Regulatory commission. One was to tighten up the protective procedures on nuclear submarine fuel and plutonium for research in power plants. Both fuels are used to make power but can be used in weapons.
Submarine fuel is uranium enriched with 90 per cent of the isotopes called U-235 and U-233. Both are weapons-grade uranium, which is needed in submarines because their power plants must be built so small.
One facility involved was the Erwin, Tenn., plant of Nuclear Fuel Services where a report last January found unlocked doors in uranium facilities and an honor system at work among the guards protecting the fuel. There was also a shortage of uranium in one plant and a surplus in a connecting plant.
The other recommendation apparently calls for the commission to be given moreintelligence information by the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI concerning the activities of terrorists. Conran apparently complained that there was no dialogue between the involved agencies, a complaint the task force called valid.