An American university has lost 1 gram of plutonium. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposes to impose a fine of more than $ 8,000
The sample is tiny, no bigger than a quarter of a US dollar but its disappearance is a heavy loss: according to the Associated Press, 1 gram of plutonium has been lost by the Idaho State University. If the quantity is not enough to produce a nuclear bomb, it is however enough to make an explosive device capable of generating a radioactive contamination.
It was during a routine check that an employee of the university could only find 13 samples of plutonium instead of the 14 expected. The report of the disappearance took place on October 13, 2017. In a statement issued on May 4, 2018, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposes to impose a $8500 fine on the establishment “for failing to maintain control and surveillance on one gram of radioactive material”. “The university has 30 days to challenge the fine or require the participation of an impartial third party to solve the problem,” adds the NRC.
According to Dr. Cornelis Van der Schyf, vice president of research at the university, the problem would come from incomplete papers filled 15 years ago while the American establishment was acquiring plutonium. According to the Associated Press, the university used this chemical element to ensure that the containers for receiving nuclear waste did not leak. It was also trying to find a way to detect radioactive material illegally entering US soil. Quoted by the press agency, Dr. Van der Schyf assured that “the radioactive sample in question does not pose a direct problem for health or a risk to public safety”.