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A Bunch Of Nuclear Materials Disappeared While Being Transported From A San Antonio Lab—And The Government Didn’t Say A Word To The Public

Considering the potential harm that even a small amount of nuclear material can cause, most people assume that it is diligently guarded and tracked by government agencies, and, in the case of civilian material, they’d be right. The nuclear material used for reactors, research, or medical purposes is tracked by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which publishes an annual report of missing or stolen material.

When it comes to the military’s nuclear stockpile, however, oversight and transparency are a much bigger problem. A 2017 incident is now drawing attention and criticism for the government’s mismanagement of nuclear material.

In March 2017, two security experts from the Department of Energy were tasked with transporting an undisclosed amount of plutonium and cesium from a San Antonio research lab to the Idaho National Laboratory, but the material was stolen after being left in the backseat of a rented car in their hotel parking lot.

That incident alone is unsettling but it has also drawn attention to the government’s disturbing record of lost or stolen nuclear material. It happens so often there’s even an acronym: MUF, or material unaccounted for.

Shockingly, no public announcement was ever made regarding the 2017 theft. No one has disclosed the amount stolen, but an Idaho lab spokeswoman, Sarah Neumann, assures it wasn’t enough to build a bomb.

Given how easily the nuclear material was stolen, there were some obvious questions about the security “experts” who lost it.

And many are wondering what happened to the lost material.

While the Trump administration prioritized keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists, some worry the Department of Energy may not be up to the task.

Over a year after the incident, police still haven’t recovered the stolen material, but Twitter has an idea where they should look.

H/T – My San Antonio, Time

Written by Dennis Matthew Livesey

Matt is a writer, designer, and native New Yorker. He has worked in film, where he enjoyed a brief career as a stand-in for Ian Holm; finance, where he pretended to understand his job, and real estate, where nothing remarkable happened. He writes about science, technology, and media. His work includes magazine articles, one published book, and the looming inevitability of the second.