427,000 Pounds of Uranium Missing (And Some Plutonium, Too)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Department of Energy cannot account for significant quantities of nuclear materials at 15 of 40 licensed locations, according to a report released on Monday by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General, Gregory Friedman.

 
More than 100 academic and commercial institutions, as well as government agencies, lease nuclear materials owned by the Department Energy. The Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are supposed to share responsibility for tracking these materials through the centralized accounting system known as the Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System, or NMMSS.
 
In 2001, a probe into the department reported initial record-keeping problems. The current follow-up audit was initiated “to determine whether the Department was adequately managing its nuclear materials provided to domestic licensees.” However, the report concluded that “the Department cannot properly account for and effectively manage its nuclear materials maintained by domestic licensees and may be unable to detect lost or stolen material.”
 
The most alarming findings were the following:
 
-Waste processing facilities reviewed could not verify the location of 6,711 grams of special nuclear material and 35, 269 kilograms of depleted and/or normal uranium.
 
-In 2004, a number of institutions reported that the amount of Department-owned nuclear materials they held was less than the quantities recorded in NNIMSS. Instead of investigating these discrepancies, the Department agreed to “write-off” 20,580 grams of enriched uranium, 45 grams of plutonium, 5,001 kilograms of normal uranium and 189,139 kilograms of depleted uranium without investigating the whereabouts or actual disposition of the material.
 
-The Department had no record of a 32-gram plutonium-beryllium source on loan to a college and subsequently transferred to another academic institution.
 
The report states, “Considering the potential health risks associated with these materials and the potential for misuse should they fall into the wrong hands, the quantities written off were significant….Even in small quantities normally held by individual domestic licensees, special nuclear materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium, if not properly handled, potentially pose serious health hazards.”
 
Ingestion of about 0.5 gram of plutonium is considered a lethal dose.
 
IG: Energy cannot account for nuclear materials at 15 locations (by Katherine McIntire Peters, GovernmentExecutive.com)

Comments

Michael 6 years ago
That's approximately enough to make 3,000 Hiroshima bombs. (Hiroshima bomb only had 56 kilograms of Uranium).

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