SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 39
May 13, 2010

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

GAO REPORT ON THE 1965 NUMEC AFFAIR DECLASSIFIED

In 1965, over 200 pounds of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium went missing from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) plant in Apollo, Pennsylvania. Circumstantial evidence and popular lore suggested that the material had been clandestinely diverted to Israel for use in its nuclear weapons program, either with or without the acquiescence of the U.S. Government.

A secret 1978 review of the episode that was performed for Congress by the General Accounting Office (as it was then known) has recently been declassified and released. But instead of resolving the mystery of the missing uranium, it only highlights it.

The Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cooperated fully with the GAO, but the CIA and the FBI did not. "GAO was continually denied necessary reports and documentation on the alleged incident by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.... The lack of access to CIA and FBI documents made it impossible for GAO to corroborate or check all information it obtained," the GAO report said.

"Based on its review of available documents held by DOE and discussions with those involved in and knowledgeable about the NUMEC incident, GAO cannot say whether or not there was a diversion of material from the NUMEC facility.... Agents from the FBI involved in the current investigation told GAO that while there exists circumstantial information which could lead an individual to conclude that a diversion occurred, there is no substantive proof of a diversion."

"All investigations of the alleged incident ended with no definitive answer and GAO found no evidence that the 200 pounds of nuclear material has been located," the GAO said.

The GAO report was obtained by the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, a group critical of pro-Israel advocacy in the U.S. See "Nuclear Diversion in the U.S.? 13 Years of Contradiction and Confusion," U.S. General Accounting Office report EMD-79-8, December 18, 1978:


NUCLEAR NONPROLIFERATION, SAFEGUARDS, AND ENRICHMENT

"South Africa repeatedly has stated its commitment to nuclear nonproliferation since it ended its nuclear weapons program and signed the Nonproliferation Treaty in July 1991," observes a brief new report from the DNI Open Source Center, which also notes that "South Africa has a history of backing Iran's 'peaceful' nuclear development." See "South Africa's Nuclear Nonproliferation Posture Remains Consistent," Open Source Center Report, 9 April 2010:

"The implementation of international safeguards at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) in Japan has been the largest challenge the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has faced to date," according to a recent report on the development of nuclear safeguards. See "Lessons Learned in International Safeguards -- Implementation of Safeguards at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant," Oak Ridge National Laboratory, December 2009:

An overview of uranium enrichment programs around the world was prepared last year for the Department of Energy, based exclusively on open source information. See "Profile of World Uranium Enrichment Programs - 2009," Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2009:


CORRECTION RE: OTA FUNDING REQUEST

In a story yesterday about efforts to revive the congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), I wrote that "For the second year in a row, Rep. Rush Holt has requested that $35 million be allocated to restore OTA." That was not correct.

Rep. Holt actually requested $2.5 million this year for an initial appropriation in Fiscal Year 2011 to get OTA restarted. "The expectation is that this number would grow to about $35 million as the office ramped up," a spokesman for Rep. Holt said.

A similar request last year for $10 million for OTA was not approved.

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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