On a mission to recover radioactive materials, two Department of Energy employees from the Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio. Materials had been loaned to a private research lab, and their job was to get it back and transport it security to a government facility.
They brought with them specialized radiation detectors. And to calibrate the detectors they have to bring along some plutonium, too, and also cesium. These are the materials used in nuclear weapons or dirty bombs.
These security specialists stopped for the night at the San Antonio Marriott Northwest.
They left the materials in the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition and went to bed. The plutonium and cesium were stolen out of the Marriott parking lot.
When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.
…the San Antonio police were dumbfounded that the experts from Idaho did not take more precautions. They “should have never left a sensitive instrument like this unattended in a vehicle,” said Carlos Ortiz, spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department.
The group that lost the nuclear material is the Off-Site Radioactive Source Recovery Program which is based at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory — is the team charged with recovering plutonium and enriched uranium that has been loaned out by the military. Let that sink in for a moment.
Odds on the team wasn’t being followed and this wasn’t a terrorist group stealing the materials, statistics from the San Antonio police department indicate that this Marriott had 87 thefts between 2016 and 2017.
One of the employees who lost the materials was given an award the very next month. There was no trail to following for the missing plutonium, “no useable prints, no worthwhile surveillance video of the crime, and no witnesses.” The Idaho National Laboratory says “it wasn’t an important or dangerous amount” of plutonium though of course combined with other plutonium that’s gone missing it would be.
The Department of Energy gave the “the lab contractor that employed the guards assigned to pick up the nuclear material… an “A” grade,” awarded them 97% of possible bonuses, and extended their contract through 2024.
(HT: Joe H.)