WASHINGTON (AFP) A dozen keys that enable scientists to enter off-limits buildings at a top-secret US nuclear weapons laboratory have been lost presenting a potential security breach, a government inspector said.
The critical report, dated Tuesday, by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General Gregory Friedman found a total of twelve keys are missing from the department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Livermore officials had initially estimated it would cost the taxpayer 1.7 million dollars to replace and upgrade 100,000 locks in 526 buildings at the site, but government officials have yet to validate these costs.
“The loss of the master keys and the Tesa card, and the delay in reporting these losses, raised the possibility of security vulnerabilities at the laboratory,” Friedman’s report warns.
Officials at the top-secret nuclear research facility reported one set of master keys missing on May 5th, although the keys were discovered missing on April 17.
Due to the national security nature of the laboratory’s work, officials are meant to report a loss of such keys within twenty-four hours, and master keys are only carried by a small number of personnel at the site.
Friedman’s probe also discovered that security officers had known about some of the missing keys, but had not reported their loss to the department.
The loss for some of the keys only came to light when a locksmith employee at the site reported that security officers had tried to get a duplicate set of keys made to replace lost keys.
“We concluded that Livermore did not have adequate internal controls to ensure that security incidents involving missing master keys and Tesa cards were reported within required timeframes,” the report found.
Tesa cards are plastic card-like keys with a magnetic strip that are also used at the site.
The nuclear weapons laboratory is managed for the energy department by the University of California.