Thursday, December 01, 2005

Plutonium Unaccounted For

By John Arnold
Journal Staff Writer

POJOAQUE— More than 660 pounds of plutonium at Los Alamos National Laboratory is unaccounted for, a Maryland-based environmental watchdog said Tuesday.

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research compared public records data from the nation's weapons and disposal sites with a 1996 U.S. Department of Energy report detailing plutonium waste inventories. IEER researchers discovered large inventory discrepancies at Los Alamos, said institute president Arjun Makhijani, who co-authored a report on the findings.

"We've got three sets of books with plutonium numbers in waste, and they are so far apart that they cannot be reconciled by any reasonable means," Makhijani said at a news conference in Pojoaque.

Makhijani said his findings raise serious environmental, regulatory and security questions. The amount of unaccounted-for plutonium, a radioactive by-product of nuclear weapons manufacturing, can be used to make dozens of bombs, according to the report. There's no evidence the plutonium has been stolen or has left LANL, Makhijani said, but "it is the responsibility of the Department of Energy and (LANL manager) the University of California to guarantee that it has not gone off site."


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