Northwest Arkansas Times from Fayetteville, Arkansas on August 15, 1974 · Page 7
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Northwest Arkansas Times from Fayetteville, Arkansas · Page 7

Fayetteville, Arkansas
Issue Date:
Thursday, August 15, 1974
Page 7
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Northwttt ArtanMi TIMIS, Thura,, Aufl. 15, 1974 rAYITTIVILLI. ARKAHtAt Protection. Of Plutonium Rates High AEC Priority WASHINGTON (AP) - The figures had been checked and double checked, the storage containers in the vault examined once again. But the inventory still didn't add up. Finally, as required by law, Ray Janka ot Kerr-McGee's nuclear fuels facility at Crescent, Okla., reached for his telephone and dialed Jack Hind, the Atomic Energy Commission's security chief in the Chicago regional office. Hind grasped the gravity, of Janka's news at once. He ordered his staff to work and informed superior* in Washing' ton. Kerr-McGee had discovered a MUF -- material unaccounted for. The material was plutonium a radioative substance used in atomic bombs. Kerr-McGee fabricates plutonium fuel ele ments for an experimental re actor in Richland. Wash. More than three pounds of plutonium had disappeared Three pounds is only a fraction of what terrorists would need to fashion a crude atomic bomb but the shortage sent ripples o alarm through the AEC. Next morning AEC inspector Charles Peck flew to Oklahoma 1 City, where he rented a car and Irove 40 miles northward through rolling hills to Crescent. There, he supervised a, new nventory of Kerr-McGee pluto- lium, seeking proof none had een stolen. Ten days later everyone re- axed. The plutonium was all there. A series of errors'in the 'irst inventory was the culprit. The Atomic Energy Commission says it is experiencing about four MUFs a year. So far ;hey all have been human or machine errors in 'the complex Inventory proceses. But J a c k Hind's c o n c e r n last February reflects a disturbing aspect of advancing nuclear tech nology. The art of making a clear weapon no longer is the exclusive purview of government scientists toiling behind barbed wire fences with mult- million-dollar budgets. There is growing fear in the U.S. nuclear community that a private group could build crude but frighteningly deadly atomic bomb. The main difficulty would be obtaining the "special nuclear material," euphemism for weapons-grade plutonium or enriched uranium "The art of making a crude device ... the information is .vailable. It's all unclassified. The things they need are available on tlie general market," said E.B. Ciller, AEC's head of lational security. Everything, that is, except the plutonium or enriched uranium that is the lead, of a nuclear bomb. The AEC spent $50 million in fiscal 1973 and is spending $90 million this year for security at Hie several dozen facilities ir the United States where poten lial bomb fuels are stored or used. The money also is' to safeguard the transportation of this fuel around the country. There are 45 nuclear plants producing electricity today for public utility companies. Sixty more are under construction. All are designed to use uranium, but ndl of the quality needed for bombs. Some physicists credit Dr. Theodore B. Taylor with heightening consciousness about the possibilities of homemade atomic bombs. Considered a crack bomb designer two decades ago at the height of the Cold War, Taylor now heads a private research and development company. He has studied at length the min mum requirements In expertise and materials to build a vorkable bomb. "Under conceivable circumstances, a few persons, possibly even one person working alone, who possessed about 10 kilograms --22 pounds--of pluto- lium oxide and a substantial amount of chemical high explosive could, within several weeks, design and bu i 1 d a crude fission bomb," Taylor said. By Taylor's definition, a crude bomb would fit into an automobile -- a delivery van, for example -- and explode with the power of 200,000 pounds of TNT. Detonated during rush hour in a large city, it might kill thousands. By comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 29' years ago this month exploded will: the force ' of 400,000 tons ol TNT, killing about 85,000 people. AEC officials won't disclose how much plutonium and en riched uranium exists in tin country to make nuclear de vices, except to acknowle'dgf that there is enough in exis teiice to make dozens of .bombs With the prospect of a Holly wood script writer's fancie urned to reality, the quality of merica's nuclear safeguards as become a matter of debate. "In our present situation lere probably arc some' points n the system where an inside lan and a determined group ke the Symbionese Liberation Army could acquire some spe- ial nuclear material," Ciller onceded. . - ' . ' . ' In 1972 inspectors from t h e Congress' watchdog agency, turned safeguards at three un- amed AEC contractors and licensees. Thy also monitored nuclear material shipments. In two reports, one issued ast fall and another lasl spring,, inspectors documentec low easily they gained access to special nuclear material. Chain link fences gave way Doors, vents and windows quickly yielded entry to nuclear material storage areas. Guards were poorly qualified. One ship ment of nearly 200 pounds o enriched uranium made a 200 mile trip in the back of an open flatbe'd truck. After the GAO inspections bu prior to release of the reports the AEC began proposing 01 implementing tougher security requirements. , Stricter limits on Inventory accuracies like the one at Kerr-' McGee went into effect 16 months ago. Tougher regu- atioris for plant sscurity and ransportation became effective n March. · AEC officials and critics pi he AEC agree that transportation Is the weak link in American safeguards. The AEC conveys most of its weapons- grade uranium and plutonium ivith its own drivers, ^guards and trucks, including special armored trucks designed to be impregnable under attack.. Drivers and guards maintain constant radio communication with AEC headquarters. Security isn't as tight for nuclear materials shipped by four commercial companies licensee by the AEC. Before March security was minimal -- no guards, no armored trucks. New guards anc armored trucks used to carry money are employed. Drivers report to the home office by ra dio every two hours. · But it will be several years before special trucks are avail able for the four commercia companies. More troublesome in coming years will be a continuous in ventory of nuclear materials making certain none have been tolen from a plant an ounce at a time for weeks or months. Unlike a bank, which can ac- ount for every penny, the ac- ounting technology at a nucle- ir plant isn't sophisticated nough to tally every atom of potential bomb fuel. AEC officials say it will be several years before the tystatt will delect a theft within hours. It t o o k Kerr-McGee 13 days to conduct the February inventory. The AEC.superviseiJ inventory lasted another U days. A theft after Kerr-McGee's January inventory might go undetected for nearly six weeks. Fayetteville Business College Proudly Announce* the Affiliation of Ora Lee Boss Broker, Gallery of Home* Proven, Successful, Sole* Method REAL ESTATE CLASSES Begin Tuesday, August 20th Fayetteville Business College 2Z1 South Locust, Fayetteville -- Phone 442-2241 Licensed by Arkansas Department of Education TOPMOST PHARMACY TOPMOST PHARMACIES LOOK FOR YOUR TOPMOST PHARMACY LISTED BELOW Friendly service-special attention to prescription needs. ^ J BRECK 4 LiaillO SHAMPOO I! ARR1D : CREAM DEODORANT I «z. 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