National Nuclear Security Administration

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National Nuclear Security Administration
NNSA Logo.png
Agency overview
Formed 2000[1]
Employees at least 1,500 (2006)
Annual budget $11 billion (FY12)
Agency executive
Parent agency Department of Energy

The United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is part of the United States Department of Energy. It works to improve national security through the military application of nuclear energy. The NNSA maintains and improves the safety, reliability, and performance of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile through the use of science, technology, and engineering. It is also responsible for many nuclear nonproliferation, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, and radiological emergency response efforts for the United States, along with the naval reactors for the United States Navy.

Frank Klotz is the Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and Administrator of NNSA.


The National Nuclear Security Administration was created by Congressional action in 1999,[2] in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee spy scandal and other allegations that lax administration by the Department of Energy had resulted in the loss of U.S. nuclear secrets to China.[3] Originally proposed to be an independent agency, NNSA gained the reluctant support of the Clinton Administration only after it was instead chartered as a sub-agency within the Department of Energy, to be headed by an Administrator reporting to the Secretary of Energy.[4] The first NNSA Administrator appointed was Air Force General (and CIA Deputy Director) John A. Gordon.[5]

Mission and operations[edit]

NNSA has four missions with regard to national security:

Defense programs[edit]

One of NNSA's primary missions is to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile without additional testing. After the Cold War, the U.S. stopped production of new nuclear warheads and voluntarily ended underground nuclear testing. NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs maintains the existing nuclear deterrent through the use of science experiments, engineering audits and high-tech simulations at its three national laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. NNSA assets used to maintain and ensure the effectiveness of the American nuclear weapons stockpile include the National Ignition Facility, the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility, and the Z Machine. NNSA also uses multiple supercomputers to run simulations and validate experimental data.

As part of NNSA's nuclear weapons mission, the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) provides safe and secure transportation of nuclear weapons and components and special nuclear materials, and conducts other missions supporting the national security of the United States of America. Since 1974, OST has been assigned responsibility to develop, operate, and manage a system for the safe and secure transportation of all government-owned, DOE or NNSA controlled special nuclear materials in "strategic" or "significant" quantities. Shipments are transported in specially designed equipment and are escorted by armed federal agents.


NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation works with international partners, key U.S. federal agencies, national laboratories and the private sector to detect, secure and dispose of nuclear and radiological material as well as related WMD technology and expertise.

Naval reactors[edit]

NNSA's Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is responsible for providing militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants. It provides the design, development and operational support required to power the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

Emergency response[edit]

NNSA's Office of Emergency Operations is responsible for responding to radiological and nuclear emergencies and working with law enforcement agencies to prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism. NNSA's experts at its national laboratories maintain a high level of readiness to deploy resources capable of responding nuclear or radiological incidents worldwide. Its key areas of operation involve looking for and identifying radiological material, rendering safe nuclear devices, and managing the spread of radiological material in the event of a natural or terrorist incident.

NNSA operates the 'Accident Response Group', with support from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory , Sandia National Laboratories, Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL), and Pantex Plant. The mission of the ARG is to maintain readiness to respond and manage the resolution of accidents, or incidents of significance involving nuclear weapons. [6]

Counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation[edit]

NNSA's Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation provides expertise, practical tools and technically informed policy recommendations to advance U.S. nuclear counterterrorism and counterproliferation objectives. It is responsible for understanding nuclear threat devices and foreign nuclear weapons that cause proliferation concerns. To accomplish these goals, the Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation program initiates international dialogues on nuclear security and counterterrorism; conducts scientific research to characterize, detect and defeat nuclear threat devices; develops and conducts WMD counterterrorism tabletop exercises; and promotes nuclear information security policy and practices.

Defense Nuclear Security[edit]

NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Security is responsible for the development and implementation of security programs, including physical and personnel security, protective forces, nuclear materials control and accountability, classified and sensitive information protection and technical security programs. It handles security operations, resources, engineering and technical support to NNSA field elements and facilities.


Data security concerns[edit]

The NNSA maintains a database containing personal information on 37,000 persons who design and maintain nuclear weapons for the U. S. government.

In June 2006, The New York Times reported that sensitive information on nuclear weapons workers had been stolen from the NNSA, and stated that the theft had gone unreported for nine months.[8]

On January 5, 2007, President George W. Bush accepted the recommendation of Energy Secretary Bodman to designate Tom D'Agostino as NNSA's Acting Administrator, and he was later nominated for the position permanently. D'Agostino was sworn in on August 30, 2007, as the Administrator.

Safe recovery of nuclear materials[edit]

In 2008, the NNSA, in cooperation with Russia and other agencies, helped transport 341 pounds of enriched uranium in 13 radiation proof casks weighing 17,000 lb (7,700 kg) apiece from Budapest to Siberia. In late September 2008 the casks were secretly loaded onto trucks at the Budapest facility and then taken to the city's train station, where it was transported onto a special train for an eight-hour trip to the port of Koper in Slovenia on the Adriatic Sea.

The shipments then moved through the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, up the Atlantic and into the English Channel, the North and Norwegian seas and then on to Murmansk. From there the shipment was loaded on a train for the long trip to Siberia.

This operation was conducted by American and Russian officials to ensure the safe disposal of the radioactive uranium that is highly enriched and weapons-grade. The Hungarian reactor is now being converted to use low-enriched uranium that cannot be used in a weapon and will not be a potential terrorist target.[9]

NNSA-Operated Facilities[edit]


  1. ^ NNSA Act (Title XXXII of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65)
  2. ^ "National Nuclear Security Administration: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Management of the Nation's Nuclear Programs". Report to the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, U.S. Government Accountability Office. January 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  3. ^ Eric Schmitt, "Spying Furor Brings Vote In Senate For New Unit", The New York Times, July 22, 1999
  4. ^ Eric Schmitt, "In Shift, Secretary Supports Bill That Overhauls Energy Department," The New York Times, September 28, 1999
  5. ^ "C.I.A. Official Chosen for Weapons Agency", The New York Times, March 3, 2000
  6. ^ "Accident Response Group". National Nuclear Security Administration. Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  7. ^ "DOE organizational chart" (PDF). US Department of Energy. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Stout, David (June 10, 2006). "Data Theft at Nuclear Agency Went Unreported for 9 Months". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Hungary". NNSA Press Release. October 23, 2008. Archived from the original on March 26, 2010. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

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