Alleged Missing Nuclear Material From DOE's Rocky Flats Weapons Production Plant

EMD-80-124: Published: Oct 1, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 1, 1980.

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GAO conducted an investigation into an allegation that weapons grade nuclear material was missing from the Department of Energy (DOE) Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant and determined the answers to specific questions regarding the nuclear material accounting system at the facility.

GAO found that an unusually large amount of weapons grade nuclear material was unacounted for at the end of the facility's June 1980 inventory period. GAO found no evidence to indicate that any material had been taken from the facility. Contractor and DOE officials are now completing a detailed investigation of the matter. Most of the work has already been done and has included a complete inventory of the plant to determine the cause of the discrepancy. Except for the results of some waste drum measurements, the investigation is complete. It was found that no discrete items containing plutonium are missing and that the inventory discrepancy was for the most part due to state-of-the-art measurement instrumentation limitations, poor measuring instrument calibration, and procedural errors that were made during the original June inventory process. The inventory figure reflected improperly measured material and did not include amounts of plutonium that were later found in waste drums and processing molds. The inventory figures have been adjusted to reflect the correct inventory data. The inventory for July 1980 resulted in a significant gain that offset the June shortage. The inventory discrepancy is a common occurence at virtually all nuclear material processing facilities and is indicative of the overall material measurement limitations that plague them. The large amount of unaccounted for plutonium has been reduced to a level that falls within the acceptable tolerance limits. DOE is satisfied that none of the material has been diverted or stolen.

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