An advisory panel has criticized the Energy Department for rushing restart of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and failing to face up to "root" safety problems at the troubled Colorado facility, documents showed.

In a Sept. 11 letter to Energy Secretary James Watkins, the department's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety said it appeared top department officials were more interested in meeting restart schedules than assuring safety improvements at the aging plutonium-processing plant.The panel urged the department to "put aside a schedule" and focus on the fundamental cause of problems at the plant - "management failure to implement previously defined commitments."