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Lawrence Livermore Labs beef up security after terror attacks

By Bruce Gerstman Special to the Daily Planet
Thursday September 13, 2001

LIVERMORE – Guarded by University of California Protection Service officers wielding M16 rifles and wearing bullet-proof vests, all gates of the one-square-mile facility known as the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories were moved to the outer perimeter of the property. The lab was closed to visitors, permitting truck deliveries only after the vehicles had been searched. 

In addition, more than two-thirds of the 7,800 workforce at the labs was given the option of staying at home Tuesday after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

Managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy, the Labs are one of the principal development and research centers for nuclear weapons in the United States. 

Despite the heightened security, the Labs and the Department of Energy consider the response Tuesday lower than the lowest state of emergency. “There is no direct threat against the lab, and these are just precautionary measures,” said John Belluardo, spokesperson for the National Nuclear Security Administration. 

However, the Laboratories activated the Emergency Management Center, a small cement building, which acts as central control for communications and security activities for the entire facility. Full of computers and a wall-sized screen showing the day’s schedule, representatives from each division – Plant Engineering, Hazard Control, National Security, and more – create strategies for the Labs and communicate with each office on the premises.  

“We chose to activate (it),” Belluardo said. “We were not directed to activate the center.” 

Representatives from the Labs and the Department of Energy hesitated to discuss possible scenarios in the case of a terrorist threat. “We feel confident that we can protect our employees,” said Dick Van Slyke, the Labs’ Safeguards and Security Division leader. 

The last time the Labs activated the command center was Dec. 31, 1999 in anticipation of problems associated with Y2K. Prior to that, it was activated more than 10 years before on Thanksgiving in 1988 after a car bomb exploded in a parking lot on the premises.