Need To Review Procedures for Safeguarding Nuclear Weapons in Transit

EMD-79-93: Published: Aug 1, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 1979.

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The procedures employed by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) for protecting nuclear weapons while in transit were recently examined. Nuclear weapons are most vulnerable while in transit, so that security measures taken to protect them outside of their storage locations must be sufficient to dissuade sabotage and theft and to withstand attack. Security procedures are based on transportation mode preferences. DOE prefers overland shipments in special trailers, while DOD prefers shipping by military aircraft.

Although the protection procedures employed by the two departments for weapons in transit appear adequate, neither department has ever compared and balanced the security, public safety, and cost advantages and disadvantages of the transportation modes to determine if one is better than the other. Results of a study conducted to estimate the average probability of a release of nuclear materials to the environment showed that a release will occur every 192,000 years using special trailers, every 3,000 years using C-141 aircraft, and every 2,000 years using C-130 aircraft. A transportation cost comparison for a selected route showed that it costs about $20,000 to ship by air and $38,640 to ship by special truck.

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