Observations on Navy Nuclear Weapon Safeguards and Nuclear Weapon Accident Emergency Planning

NSIAD-85-123: Published: Jul 29, 1985. Publicly Released: Aug 2, 1985.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Navy's plans to use Staten Island, New York as the home port for a surface action group, which would be capable of handling nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

GAO found that the Navy: (1) estimated that it would cost $291 million to acquire and construct a home port site on Staten Island; (2) worked with local officials to initiate emergency preparedness plans for the site, but the plans are being developed and cannot yet be evaluated; and (3) filed both classified and unclassified environmental impact statements pertaining to its actions associated with site development. In addition, GAO found that: (1) the Tomahawk cruise missile system that could be handled by the group is one of the safest weapon systems available; (2) if the Navy implements certain safety features and procedural safeguards of the system, the risk of an accident will be reduced to a minimum; and (3) while the Navy has reported three nuclear weapon accidents in the 30 years it has handled nuclear weapons, none of the accidents resulted in damage to a weapon, the release of radioactive material, or danger to civilian populations or property. GAO also found that: (1) in the event of a nuclear weapons accident, the Navy's objective is to render the weapons safe from detonation, recover all classified materials, and assist in restoring the affected area to normal use; (2) the Navy shares accident responsibilities with other federal, state, and local agencies; and (3) national joint nuclear weapons accident response exercises were conducted on three occasions and were generally perceived to be beneficial.

Nov 17, 2020

Jul 16, 2020

Jun 25, 2020

Jun 11, 2020

Apr 28, 2020

Mar 9, 2020

Jan 28, 2020

Oct 8, 2019

Looking for more? Browse all our products here