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Weapon-grade plutonium disappears from the University of the United States

A small amount of military-grade radioactive plutonium has disappeared from a university in Idaho.

The State University of Idaho was using the radioactive chemical element, which was about the size of a 10 p piece, for research.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the USA. UU He said the university could not represent approximately 30 grams of a gram of material, which is used in nuclear reactors and to make nuclear bombs.

While the amount is too small to make a nuclear bomb, it could be used to make a dirty bomb to spread radioactive contamination, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the agency.

"The NRC has very rigorous controls for the use and storage of radioactive materials as evidenced by this enforcement action," he said of the proposed fine of $ 8,500 (£ 6,280) for not tracking the material.

Dr. Cornelis Van der Schyf, vice president of research at the university, blamed the partially completed paperwork 15 years ago when the school tried to get rid of plutonium.

"Unfortunately, due to the lack of sufficient historical records to demonstrate the route of elimination used in 2003, the source in question had to be listed as missing," he said in a statement. "The radioactive source in question does not pose a direct health problem or a risk to public safety."

Nuclear waste is stored in underground containers in the Idaho Nation (AP Photo / Keith Ridler )

Idaho State University has a nuclear engineering program and works with the Laboratory Idaho National of the US Department of Energy. UU., Considered the country's leading nuclear research laboratory and located approximately 65 miles northwest of the school.

Plutonium was used to develop ways to ensure that nuclear waste containers did not leak and to find ways to detect radioactive materials that were brought illegally to the United States. UU After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the school said.

The university, which has 30 days to contest the proposed fine, reported that the plutonium is missing on October 13, according to documents published by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The agency said that a school employee doing a routine inventory found that the university could only account for 13 of its 14 sources of plutonium, each weighing approximately the same small amount.

The school searched for documents and found records for 2003 and 2004 saying that the material was on campus and awaiting disposal. However, there were no documents to indicate that the plutonium had been properly disposed of.

The last document mentioning plutonium, dated November 23, 2003, said that the Idaho National Laboratory did not want the plutonium and that the technical safety office of the school had "pending disposal of the next shipment of waste."

The school also reviewed documents on waste barrels there and others transferred off campus since 2003, and opened and examined some of them.

Finally, the officers searched the campus but did not find the plutonium.

"We suspect that it ended up in a landfill of radioactive materials," Dricks, the commission's spokesman, told Live Science.

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