Secrecy News

Indictment Against Physicist is Highly Enriched

The indictment of former Los Alamos physicist Leo Mascheroni and his wife Marjorie Mascheroni on charges of attempting to sell classified nuclear weapons information to a foreign government includes a garbled account of nuclear weapons technology, potentially casting doubt on the credibility of the allegations against the couple, the New York Times disclosed.

In the indictment (at p. 8), Mascheroni supposedly described “a secret underground nuclear reactor for… enriching plutonium.”  But this makes no sense, since plutonium is not and cannot be enriched in a nuclear reactor.  The misstatement or misunderstanding of this matter enhances the possibility that other parts of the indictment are equally questionable.

The error in the indictment was reported in “Lawyers Look to Exploit a Scientific Error” by William J. Broad, New York Times, September 24.

0 thoughts on “Indictment Against Physicist is Highly Enriched

  1. Yep, that’s an error. However, it does also raise the possibility the source/agent misinterpreted discussion about a breeder reactor.

    http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/nuke/plutonium.htm

    It seems a bit of an oversight the New York Times article did not discuss the possibility. Since it’s not obvious that every FBI man acting as a foreign rep, or everyone on the justice team would have a reasonably complete knowledge of the basics of bomb production and nuclear fuel cycles.

  2. One might also wonder about

    “Defendant MASCHERONI discussed his program for developing nuclear
    weapons for Venezuela, which included a laser Defendant
    MASCHERONI described as being capable of blinding satellites;”

    A nuclear powered ASAT laser seems quite sporty.

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