Issue Date: July 16, 2007
Fake Business Buys Dirty Bomb Material
Posing as businessmen, auditors with the Government Accountability Office were able to get a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a phony company, effectively allowing them to obtain the makings of a dirty nuclear bomb. The license issued by NRC permits a company to purchase industrial measurement equipment containing radioactive material, in this case americium-241 and cesium-137. The license restricts the amount of material that can be purchased, but GAO auditors were able to easily forge the document so the fake company could buy equipment containing enough radioactive material to cause injury or death, either deliberately or by accident, if extracted. GAO tried the same approach with state regulators in Maryland, one of 34 states that oversee nuclear licensing regulations through an agreement with NRC, but the state requested a visit to the company, and GAO pulled back its request. Responding to the report, which was released at a Senate hearing last week, NRC said it is toughening its regulations and studying GAO's report to see whether the incident has broader implications or reflects "a unique vulnerability." The report is available at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1038T.
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