WASHINGTON — CONGRESSIONAL investigators report that unchallenged secrecy at nuclear weapons plants allowed the Energy Department and its private contractors to neglect a need for improved health and safety programs. The safety problems, which came to light mostly over the past two years, were aggravated by a lack of outside scrutiny and effective oversight from the Energy Department, which pays private companies to run the facilities, the congressional report issued Sunday said.
``This penchant for secrecy and the classified nature of the process of making nuclear weapons contributed to a mindset of emphasizing production at the expense of health and safety,'' the report said.
A variety of congressional committees and independent panels have been studying problems in the weapons complex, which includes 16 major facilities in 12 states. Some of key facilities are closed down for repairs and improvements.