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Q clearance is a United States Department of Energy (DOE) security clearance equivalent to a United States Department of Defense Top Secret (TS) clearance and Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information (CNWDI).[1] DOE clearances apply for access specifically relating to atomic or nuclear related materials ("Restricted Data" under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954). The clearance is issued to non-military personnel only. In 1946 U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps Major William L. Uanna, in his capacity as the first Chief of the Central Personnel Clearance Office at the newly formed Atomic Energy Commission named and established the criteria for the Q Clearance.

As of 2015, Q clearances required a single-scope background investigation of the previous ten years of the applicant's life by both the Office of Personnel Management and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and cost $3,225.[2]

In popular culture[]

"Q" Clearance was a 1986 novel by Peter Benchley (Random House, ISBN 0-394-55360-8), satirizing Cold War secrecy and politics.

Actor Charlton Heston once held a "Q" Clearance for six years when he served as a nuclear armament topics training film narrator for the military during his post-World War II military service years.

See also[]


  1. Security | UK-USA Classification Equivalency Table | Los Alamos National Laboratory
  2. William Burr, Thomas S. Blanton, and Stephen I. Schwartz, "The Costs and Consequences of Nuclear Secrecy" in Stephen I. Schwartz, ed., Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 (Brookings Institution Press, 1998): 433-483; figures from Box 8-4, "Typical Costs of Security Investigations", on 461.

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