Inside Public Integrity

Published — May 15, 2018

‘A powerful, scary investigation’: In-depth series on safety lapses at nuclear labs earns awards

Illustration by Joanna Eberts

Nuclear Negligence earned two first-place designations in the Associated Press Media Editors Awards for Journalism Excellence and Innovation.


A Center for Public Integrity investigation of safety challenges facing the nation’s nuclear laboratories has garnered two first-place designations in the 2018 Associated Press Media Editors Awards for Journalism Excellence and Innovation.

These prizes come on the heels of the project’s garnering of honorable mention honors for the Gerald R. Ford Journalism Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. The six-part series, “Nuclear Negligence,” examined safety weaknesses at U.S. nuclear weapons sites operated by corporate contractors. The project uncovered unpublicized accidents at the facilities, including some that caused avoidable radiation exposures. The Center’s reporting also discovered that the penalties imposed by the government for these errors were typically small, relative to the tens of millions of dollars the government awards to each of the contractors annually in pure profit.

“Nuclear Negligence was easily one of the most important investigative projects produced by any news organization last year,” said Center for Public Integrity CEO John Dunbar. “We’re grateful for the recognition and hope it raises awareness of the serious issues regarding the security of nuclear materials at the nation’s weapons labs raised in the series.”

Judges in the APME contest called the series “a powerful, scary investigation that painted a frightening portrait of the safety climate in America’s most secretive and sensitive industry.” The judges said the project involved “exhaustive, years-long digging” and made “great” use of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The judging panel for the Ford Prize said that the Center’s “painstaking investigative journalism… exposed not only health and safety concerns, but defense readiness issues.” The judges went on to say that “as pressure continues to grow in the reporting industry for shorter attention-grabbing articles, journalistic non-profits like the Center for Public Integrity play an increasingly important role in nurturing the patient reporting, shoe leather sourcing, and in-depth analysis required to produce substantive investigative stories.

Nuclear Negligence

Illustration by Joanna Eberts

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