From the SFGate:
Enough plutonium to make dozens of nuclear bombs hasn't been accounted for at the UC-run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and may be missing, an activist group says in a new report.
There is no evidence that the weapons-grade plutonium has been stolen or diverted for illegal purposes, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said. However, the amount of unaccounted-for plutonium -- more than 600 pounds, and possibly several times that -- is so great that it raises "a vast security issue," the group said in a report to be made public today.
UC spokesman Chris Harrington said Los Alamos "does an annual inventory of special nuclear materials which is overseen by (the Energy Department). These inventories have been occurring for 20-plus years. Special nuclear materials are carefully tracked to a minute quantity."
The report concludes that at least 661 pounds of plutonium generated at the lab over the last half-century is not accounted for. The atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 contained about 13 pounds of plutonium.
"The security implications . . . are extremely serious, since less than 2 percent of the lowest unaccounted-for plutonium is enough to make one nuclear bomb," the report said.
How comforting to know that such progress has been made. If this stuff is tracked "to a minute quantity", one has to wonder how 661 pounds is defined, exactly. Does this not fall well OUTSIDE "minute"?!? When I think of such small quantities, typically decimals are involved. I mean, that's a little more than a bookkeeping error, don't you think? It's not like rounding 0.6 to 1.00 because some bean counter forgot to format his spreadsheet properly. Now that I'd be willing to call "minute".
Even still, I'm no chemist, but I'm working on the assumption that even tiny amounts of plutonium (for fucksake!) are dangerous, and that it would be sloppy, at best, to "lose" say, just an ounce or so. But 661 POUNDS?!?!
I expect the story (should it actually gain any real traction in the press) will eventually be explained away by some Los Alamos rep saying, effectively, "Heh. Found it. Sorry... Never mind", but even if such a benign tale were true, that's a rather cold comfort, don't you think?
Abhorrent moral implications of nuclear weaponry aside, you'd think the very LEAST these guys could do is keep track of their materials.
Many years ago, while working for Wells Fargo, I spent the better part of a day tracking down $.06.
Yep, six measly cents.
Since the pennies involved were the net result of several million dollars representing several dozen transactions, it had the potential to be quite a pain in the ass. When I was ready to climb the walls after nearly 5 hours into the process, two other people got involved. We did finally find it, but we sure as hell weren't going to leave for the day until we did. And that was just $.06. Easy to write off with relative impunity, but it was the principle of the thing. When you balance out at closing, your totals should be zero. Everything accounted for. Every last penny. To miss such a basic benchmark would be shoddy work, and simply beneath us, to say nothing of required.
Are we now to believe that NUCLEAR WEAPONS MANUFACTURERS don't hold themselves to the same standards? One could reasonably argue that the accounting protocol for plutonium be just a tad stricter than the mundane rules of municipal bond processing. Then again, maybe I'm being a hard ass.
Maybe the staff at Wells Fargo should trade jobs with the boys at Los Alamos. I can at least vouch for the unyielding regulations of the former.