Stolen Radioactive Material

Title: Europe's HEU Finds May Be Stolen From A Single, Aging Stockpile
Date: February 16, 1995
Source: NTI

Abstract: According to Nucleonics Week, the HEU confiscated in Landshut, Germany in June 1994 and in Prague, Czech Republic in December 1994 may have originated from a single stockpile that had been produced over ten years ago. Germany's federal criminal investigative unit, Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), compiled a report that connected the suspects that had been arrested in both smuggling cases. The BKA discovered a connection between the Czech national arrested in the Czech case and the Polish national arrested in the Landshut case.

Spectrometric analysis by the IAEA has indicated that the isotopic spectrum in the material from both cases is almost the same, containing no U- 232, about 88% U-235, slightly over 1% U-234, and about 0.2% U-236. The mass percentage of U-238 in both batches is slightly different. The small amounts of U-236 found in the confiscated materials indicates that the uranium had been recovered from spent fuel reprocessing and then re-enriched. Analysis of the material has not indicated by what process the uranium had been enriched or whether the material had been diverted from military sources. [See also Mark Hibbs, Nuclear Fuel, 13 February 1995, pp. 8-10, 'Smuggled Czech HEU Cache Described As `Identical' To German Test Sample'] (NTI, 2012)

Israel Stole Uranium From U.S., Report Will Show
Date: December 5, 2011
Source: Daily Star

Abstract: A U.S.-based research institute will soon publish what it says is “indisputable” evidence that Israel stole weapons-grade uranium for its still-undeclared atomic weapons program from a nuclear reprocessing plant in western Pennsylvania.

The Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep) will release this month a 300-page report detailing the initial findings of a multi-year research project investigating the disappearance of highly enriched uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (Numec) in Apollo, Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 1960s.

Grant Smith, the director of IRmep, told The Daily Star that the report would include a broad range of newly declassified and un-redacted government documents from various agencies – including the Department of Energy, Atomic Energy Commission, FBI and CIA – that prove that nuclear material was diverted from Numec to Israel.

“The story at this point is that there is no one smoking gun; there are many smoking pistols lying all over the place that we’ve painstakingly collected,” Smith told The Daily Star.

When contacted by The Daily Star, Zalman Shapiro, the founder and former president of the Numec, strongly denied that any diversion of materials to Israel had ever taken place at the plant.

“The story is fabricated. Absolutely fabricated,” said Shapiro, who is now 91 years old.

Smith said that among the evidence to be included in the report is a DOE document confirming that uranium samples picked up by the CIA outside Israel’s nuclear installation in Dimona bore the same isotopic signature as material produced by the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in the U.S. state of Ohio. The Portsmouth plant was a supplier for Numec.

Victor Gillinsky, who was a commissioner for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1975 to 1984, said that evidence of a link between samples found at Dimona and nuclear material produced at Portsmouth, if reliable, would be “very significant.”

“The [Portsmouth] plant was producing very highly enriched uranium, more highly enriched than the usual stuff produced anywhere in the U.S. or other countries because they were turning it out for Navy fuel. So if you found material of that high enrichment, I believe Portsmouth was the only place in the world that would be making it,” Gillinsky told The Daily Star.

The former NRC official cautioned, however, that such evidence should still be viewed with skepticism, since any samples picked up by CIA agents at the Dimona facility would have been extremely small.

“The question is, did they really pick up things that they could clearly identify as coming from Portsmouth?” said Gillinsky.

“If [IRmep] do have something that does nail it down that would be very significant,” said Gillinsky. “But I would look at [the evidence in the IRmep report] very carefully before concluding that it is nailed down.”

The DOE reported in 2001 that 269 kilograms of highly enriched uranium went missing from the Numec plant during the course of its operations under Shapiro’s management from 1957 to 1968.

Suspicion has long swirled around the possibility that the missing uranium was diverted to Israel. Both the FBI and CIA conducted years-long investigations into the missing uranium, but no charges were ever filed.

Previously declassified documents revealed that some of Israel’s most elite spies visited the Numec facility in 1968.

A request submitted to the AEC to gain approval for the visit identified the Israelis as Rafael Eitan, Avraham Ben-Dor, Ephraim Biegun and Avraham Hermoni.

A former director of operations for Mossad, Eitan headed in 1960 the mission that led to the capture of ex-Nazi official Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.

Eitan later served as director of Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations (known by its Hebrew acronym Lekem), an intelligence entity that specialized in acquiring scientific and military secrets from abroad through covert means.

As the head of Lekem, Eitan directly oversaw the activities of Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who was in 1987 convicted and sentenced to life in prison on charges of spying for Israel.

Ben-Dor was Eitan’s right-hand man in the operation to capture Eichmann, and also served as a long-time Shin Bet agent before being forced to retire in 1986 for covering up the deaths of two Palestinian prisoners.

Biegun was the head of Mossad’s Technical Department, specializing in electronics and communication.

Hermoni was the technical director of the nuclear bomb project at RAFAEL, Israel’s armament development authority.

Smith said the question of whether highly enriched uranium was diverted from Numec to Israel is all the more relevant now in view of current U.S. efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

“Why are we looking at nuclear weapons? Probably the biggest question that’s being asked in this town [Washington] right now is whether to get even more heavily involved in trying to suppress Iran’s nuclear program. And we think it’s extremely valuable to get the truth out about U.S. collaboration, intentional or not, in Israel’s program,” Smith said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently carrying out a $170 million cleanup of the decommissioned nuclear site in Apollo that is scheduled to be completed in 2015 (Daily Star, 2011)

Title: Radioactive Material Said Stolen From Egyptian Plant
Date: January 19, 2012
Source: New York Times

Abstract: Radioactive material has been stolen from a nuclear power station on Egypt's Mediterranean coast that was the scene of violent protests last week, the state-run al-Ahram newspaper reported on Thursday.

A safe containing radioactive material at the Dabaa nuclear power plant, which is still under construction, was seized while another also containing radioactive material was broken open and part of its contents taken, the newspaper said.

In Vienna, an official of the U.N. nuclear agency described the items missing as "low-level radioactive sources" which had been taken from a laboratory at the construction site. He could not give any details on the nature of the stolen items.

"We are in touch with the Egyptian authorities," the official from the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Al-Ahram said the government has alerted security authorities and asked that specialized teams help in the search for the stolen material.

More than a dozen people were wounded last week when military police tried to disperse hundreds of Egyptian protesters demanding the relocation of the Dabaa plant.

Plant staff have refused to go to the site because of the deterioration in the security situation there, al-Ahram said.

About 500 Egyptians rallied in front of the plant last week to demand that the project be terminated, with some saying they had lost their land on the site.

Soldiers and the demonstrators threw stones at each other and exchanged gunfire after the protesters demolished a wall surrounding the site, a security source and witnesses said (New York Times, 2012).

Title: Radioactive Material Stolen In Brazil
Date: April, 2012
Latin American Herald Tribune

Abstract: A vehicle carrying a capsule filled with radioactive material was stolen over the weekend in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian police said.

Armed men intercepted the vehicle, which belonged to an industrial maintenance firm, on the highway that links Rio to Sao Paulo.

The vehicle’s occupants warned the robbers about the presence of the potentially dangerous cargo, police said.

The stolen vehicle was transporting Selenium-75, a radioactive substance with industrial applications, the maintenance firm said.

Inside the capsule, the material poses no risk, but a leak of the Selenium-75 could have serious effects for human health and the environment, authorities said.

Officials fear a repeat of what happened in the central state of Goiania in 1987, when a scavenger forced open a capsule of Cesium-137 that a clinic illegally discarded at a dump. Four people died and dozens were sickened in Brazil’s worst-ever accident involving radioactive material
(Latin American Herald Tribune, 2012).

Title: Radioactive Material Stolen In Rio
Date: April 29, 2012
Brazil Dispatch

Abstract: According to the company, the vehicle contained a capsule of Selenium 75 which is used to do X-rays of industrial welds. Although the capsule has a safety device which prevents it being opened, it could be broken into. Selenium 75 is regarded as a high risk to both environmental and human health.

On Sunday, representatives of the company reported the vehicle, a Renault Logan with Sao Paulo license plates and the company’s logo on the side, stolen and advised authorities of the dangerous cargo. The National Commission of Nuclear Energy (CNEN), Federal and State Civil Defense were also advised.

radioactive device stolen in goiania brazil in 1987 kills four

In 1987, in the Central Brazilian state of Goias, an old radiotherapy device was stolen from an abandoned hospital in the capital city, Goiania. The device, which contained cesium 137, subsequently came into contact with many people, resulting in four deaths (Brazil Dispatch, 2012).

Title: Stolen Radioactive Material Returned
Date: July 23, 2012
New Zealand Herald

Abstract: Radioactive material which was on the back of a stolen ute has been handed in to police today.

The nuclear density meter, which is clearly marked "Class 7 Radioactive", was on a white Ford Courier ute reported stolen from New Brighton in Christchurch on Tuesday.

Police had said the "density and moisture gauge" that uses radioactive material could have put the thieves and the public at risk.

But today, the item was brought in to the Christchurch South police station this morning by a member of the public.

Detective Sergeant Mark Keane said the equipment was intact and appears undamaged.

"We are in the process of contacting the owners of the equipment and notifying other agencies, but the unit does not appear to have been tampered with, and at this stage we do not believe there is any safety risk."

The nuclear density meter, a Troxler model 3440, contains two small radioactive sources.

The amount of radioactive material is relatively small is encapsulated in stainless steel, however authorities were concerned that unauthorised removal of the material may have posed a health and safety concern.

The stolen ute has not yet been located.

Mr Keane said the unit would be fingerprinted and police were continuing enquiries to determine what happened to the ute and the equipment.

Police had spoken to the person who brought the item in to police, but had yet to establish what involvement, if any, that person had in the theft (New Zealand Herald, 2012)

Title: ‘High-Risk’ Nuclear Material, Missing For Weeks, Found In Safety Commission’s Ottawa Office
Date: July 26, 2012
National Post

Abstract: The federal agency responsible for regulating nuclear material in Canada lost an undisclosed amount of a “high-risk radioactive nuclear substance” for the better part of three weeks before it was discovered in a meeting room in its downtown Ottawa offices.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission said officials were conducting a routine demonstration to summer students using a radioactive material called Cesium-137 on June 26 in an office in downtown Ottawa.

The students were learning to locate hidden radioactive material using detection equipment.

 After the demonstration was completed, some of the material was left in the meeting room until it was rediscovered at 12:45 p.m. on July 17, when it was found by workers setting up for another meeting.

The agency, which immediately notified its radiation protection staff and removed the material, said the Cesium-137 used was a very low-risk quantity of nuclear substance typically used to determine if radiation detection equipment is functioning correctly before use.

“The CNSC takes safety seriously,” reads a memo to government staff on July 19 from Terry Jamieson, vice-president of the technical support branch. “We will continue to investigate this event to identify and correct the gaps that led to this lapse in inventory control.”

A spokesman from CNSC confirmed Thursday that the incident took place and stated that “at no time was there a risk to the health or safety of CNSC staff or the general public.”

However, Tom Adams, an independent energy consultant, said Cesium-137 is a highly controlled substance that has many safety guidelines placed upon its use.

“One of the safety requirements for licensees using this stuff is that people who are potentially exposed to it must wear dosimeters, which are devices that measure their exposure,” said Mr. Adams, who said without one of those meters it is difficult to tell whether a person received an unhealthy dose of radiation.

Cesium-137 is nuclear waste created as a byproduct of nuclear fission, the process of splitting atoms to generate nuclear power. The material is coveted for industrial purposes, where it is used for level and thickness gauges, as well as medical purposes, where its used in radiotherapy to treat various cancers.

CNSC is the federal regulator responsible for the use, possession and storage of all Cesium-137 in Canada.

The agency, founded in 2000, has a history of disciplining Canadian companies for breaching security requirements relating to transport and storage of radioactive substances such as Cesium-137.

In one such action, dated July 6 and posted to the agency’s website, CNSC disciplined Ottawa company Best Theratronics Ltd. for failing to give seven days’ notice before shipping one of its Gammacell 3000 machines, used to irradiate donated blood.

In its disciplinary ruling against Best Theratronics, CNSC referred to Cesium-137, which is used in the device, as a “high-risk radioactive nuclear substance” that is governed by the International Atomic Energy Agency Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

The federal agency did not say whether the July discovery of the forgotten Cesium-137 would constitute a breach of Canada’s international agreements (National Post, 2012)

Title: FBI Clears Halliburton Crew In Loss Of Radioactive Tool
Date: September 14, 2012

Halliburton Co. (HAL) crew members who lost a radioactive rod used in drilling wells in West Texas weren’t guilty of criminal conduct, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said as a hunt for the tool entered a fourth day.

FBI officials working with the Texas Department of Transportation questioned three employees who were unable to locate the device this week after it went missing on a 130-mile (209-kilometer) route from Pecos to Odessa, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission incident report today.

A device similar to the missing radioactive probe is shown. Source: Texas Department of State Health Services via Bloomberg

“The FBI would only say that they believed there was no criminal activity involved with the missing” tool, Halliburton told state officials according to the NRC report. A well near Pecos, where the device was last used, has been searched three times, it said.

A National Guard unit based in Austin sent a three-person team with detection gear yesterday to assist local officials, said Amy Cook, a spokeswoman for the Guard. The Texas Department of State Health Services said yesterday it requested help to find the radioactive item, which can pose a health risk if touched or held for several days.

Halliburton lost the unit on Sept. 11, according to an NRC report. Pickup trucks with detection gear retraced the route of a vehicle that carried the device before it was lost. The trucks drove at 10 miles an hour between Pecos and Odessa without finding the unit, the report said.

‘Stay Back’
“It’s not something that produces radiation in an extremely dangerous form,” Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the health department, said in an interview. “But it’s best for people to stay back, 20 or 25 feet.”

Oil-field service companies lower the radioactive units into wells to let workers identify places to break apart rock for a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which frees oil and natural gas. While the loss of such a probe occurs from time to time, it has been years since a device with americium-241/beryllium, the material in Halliburton’s device, was misplaced in Texas, Van Deusen said.

Loss of such a device hasn’t been reported to the NRC within at least the past five years, Maureen Conley, an agency spokeswoman, said in an interview. She said the material would have to be in someone’s physical possession for several hours for it to be considered harmful. The agency works with states to regulate use of radioactive materials.

Smoke Detectors
Americium-241 also is used in smoke detectors, medical diagnostic devices, aircraft fuel gauges and distance-sensing tools that use its gamma-radiation properties, according to information on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. The material mostly emits alpha particles, along with some gamma rays, the EPA said.

Halliburton called the Reeves County sheriff’s office in Pecos after discovering the item was missing, police sergeant Jerry Millan said.

“They told us they had lost a radioactive rod,” he said in an interview. “I’ve worked in the oil fields, so I knew what it was. We’ve been assisting with the search.”

The seven-inch stainless-steel cylinder is about an inch in diameter and marked with the radiation-warning symbol, Halliburton said in a statement yesterday. The cylinder is marked “do not handle.”

Halliburton told the state that workers discovered on Sept. 11 that a lock on the container used to transport the device was missing, along with the unit, after driving a truck to a well south of Odessa from from a site near Pecos, according to the NRC report. The company is offering a reward and is working with local law enforcement, the highway patrol and health officials in the search, the company said.

“Halliburton is working with authorities to resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” the company said in its statement (Bloomberg, 2012).