19 July 2007

Nuclear materials for the asking

The New York Times is reporting that the General Accounting Office (GAO) set up a fake construction company and requested a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to purchase nuclear materials. The GAO did this in order to audit the NRC's security protocols. The fake GAO company had no physical location, no Web site, no clients, no construction equipment, and no personnel--just a mailbox.

The NRC quite promptly (less than a month) sent the fake company the requested license. In fact, the GAO was able to alter the document so as to be able to purchase more nuclear material than the original license allowed. The GAO was then able to acquire enough americium-241 and cesium-137 (substances which are legitimately purchased by construction companies) to have been able to construct a dirty bomb (the GAO called off the order prior to delivery and never actually constructed a bomb).

So, next time you think the NRC's got your back, think again.

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