Department of Energy Loses Track of Radioactive Material

The Department of Energy has done a poor job of tracking nuclear materials it has loaned under licenses to contractors, educational institutions and other organizations, according to an investigation by DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman and his staff.

In some cases, the department cannot say where where the heavily radioactive substances are, how they're being used or whether they have been disposed of, the auditors found.

At issue is the tracking system used by DOE known as the Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System. Based on the new report, the tracking system appears to be a health -- and could it be, national security? -- nightmare.

It could be that the missing nuclear materials -- including depleted and normal uranium --has been disposed of and that the particularities of accounting for the stuff were ignored.

Or not. No one seems to know for sure, according to the report.

"During this effort, the Department agreed to write off the following quantities of its nuclear materials from the NMMSS inventories of just the 40 facilities we reviewed:

• 20,580 grams of enriched uranium;

• 45 grams of plutonium;

• 5,001 kilograms of normal uranium; and,

• 189,139 kilograms of depleted uranium.

"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. For example, 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."

More on this before long.

By Robert O'Harrow |  February 24, 2009; 11:06 AM ET Inspectors General
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No doubt that the right will prove conclusively that this is either Obama's fault or Clinton's.

Posted by: Attucks | February 24, 2009 11:58 AM

In this day and age with excellent computerized inventory tracking, one is befuddled as to how any taxpayer property can be lost. It just makes no sense.

Posted by: srd1 | February 24, 2009 12:09 PM

Everyone that failed to document radioactive material should be fired immediately. No and's, if's or butt's about it. Get out, well mail you you're crap.

Posted by: askgees | February 24, 2009 3:17 PM

This is just SOP for Dept. of Energy. It's probably been going on since the agency was established.

Posted by: Nevadaandy | February 24, 2009 6:45 PM

What can we expect from the bunch who lost hundreds of weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan? If you care, you keep track of your charges. If you don't, well . . . And you can't legislate morality or force an abiding concern. The other side of "let someone else do it" really is "my way or the highway." Once the era of "guaranteed outcomes" ended (1968), then I fear this society was in decay and decline.

Posted by: MouthSore | February 25, 2009 12:21 PM

WOW, this is both pathetic and disturbing. So much for the War on Terror -- if we are worried about terrorists making a dirty bomb, wouldn't it be wise to safeguard nuclear materials?

Why hasn't this story received more notice? Why aren't those in charge fired? There is such apathy and lethargy in Government, it is shocking to this taxpayer!

Posted by: winoohno | February 27, 2009 3:04 PM

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