US Can't Trace Sold Nuclear Material

Government Accountability Office is concerned
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2011 1:20 PM CDT
A worker walks by yellow barrels containing potentially radioactive material in Germany in this file photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – For all the Obama administration’s talk of securing nuclear stockpiles, the US has no ability to track 5,900 pounds of “weapons usable” nuclear material that it has sold to foreign governments over the years, according to a little-noticed Government Accountability Office report last week picked up by Wired. Instead, the US relies on assurances from the governments that bought the stuff that it’s being kept secured.

“We’re not, to coin a phrase, trusting but verifying,” said one source familiar with the report’s development. Of course, most of the countries in question are allies. But when the US has inspected the sites using the material, the results have been ugly; of the 55 sites visited from 1994 to 2010, 21 weren’t up to UN security guidelines, and inspectors couldn't access or had lost records concerning another seven. But the Energy Department downplays the report, noting that no nuclear material is actually missing. (Read more Government Accountability Office stories.)

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