Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 14, 1974, Page 4

Cedar Rapids Gazette

August 14, 1974

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Issue date: Wednesday, August 14, 1974

Pages available: 160

Previous edition: Tuesday, August 13, 1974

Next edition: Thursday, August 15, 1974

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Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - August 14, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 2A THI* Mar Rapids Gazette: Wed., Aor 14, 19741 "WHA ‘*■•>■*<%% -st *'"Threat of Nuclear Theft Raises Specter of Bomb By William Stockton AP Science Writer WASHINGTON (AP) - The figures had Ix'en checked and double checked, the storage containers in the vault examined once again But the inventory still didn’t add up Finally, as required by law, Ray .lanka of Kerr-McGee’s nuclear fuels facility at ( res- (First of two articles) cent. Okla., reached for his telephone and dialed Jack Hind, the Atomic Energy Commission’s security chief in the Chicago regional office. Hind grasped the gravity of Janka’s news at once. He ordered his staff to work and informed superiors in Washington. MGF Kerr-McGee had discovered a MCF — material unaccounted for. The material was plutonium, a radioactive substance used in atomic bombs. Kerr-McGee fabricates plutonium fuel elements for an experiment reactor in Richland. Wash. More than three pounds of plutonium had disappeared Three pounds is only a fraction of what terrorists would need to fashion a crude atomic bomb, the shortage sent ripples of alarm through the AEC. The MGF immediate action. demanded The next morning AEC inspector Charles Peck hoarded an airliner for Oklahoma City. where he rented a car and dro\e 40 miles northward through rolling hills to Crescent. There, he supervised a new inventory of Re. i-McGee plutonium. seeking proof none had been stolen. Ten days later everyone relaxed. The plutonium was all there A series of errors in tin* first inventory was the culprit The Atomic Energy Commission says it is experiencing about four MI Es a year. So far they all have been human or machine errors in the complex inventory processes. But -lack Hind s concern last February reflects a disturbing aspect of advancing nuclear technology. The art of making a nuclear weapon no longer is the exclusive purview of government scientists toiling behind barbed wire fences w ith multimillion dollar budgets There is growing fear in the G. S. nuclear community that a private group could build a crude but frighteningly deadly atomic bomb. The main difficulty would be obtaining the “special nuclear material,” a euphemism for weapons-grade plutonium or enriched uranium. A few years ago, AEC weapons experts said that terrorists or criminals couldn’t build an A-bomb. They don’t say this anymore. “The art of making a crude device . . . the information is available. It's all unclassified The things they need are available on the general market.’’ said E. B. Giller. AFC’s head of national security. Everything, that is. except the plutonium or enriched uranium that is the heart of a nuclear bomb. Security Spending The AEC spent Sail million in fiscal 1973 and is spending IMI million this year for security at the several dozen facilities iii the I S. where potential bomb fuels are stored or used The money also is to safeguard the transportation of this fuel around the country There are 45 nuclear plants producing electricity today for public utility companies Sixty more are under construction. All are designed to use uranium, but not of the quality needl'd for bombs. Some physicists credit Hr. Theodore Taylor with heigh tening consciousness about the possibilities of homemade atomic bombs. Considered a crack bomb designer two decades ago at the height of the Cold War. Taylor now heads a private research and development company. He has studied at length the minimum requirements in expertise and materials to build a workable bomb “Under conceivable circumstances, a few persons, possibly even one person working alone, who possessed about ll) kilograms (22 pounds) of plutonium oxide and a substantial New Brazilian Leader Relaxes Censor Grip KIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A new era of lighter censorship of the press and arts in Brazil appears to have been initiated bv ‘the military-dominated government under tile new president, General Ernesto Geisel. Packed audiences in KI© are roaring with laughter at the theatrical adventures of a bumbling general and a detective who tortures convicts. In Sac Paulo, publishers are completing plans for a Brazilian edition of Playboy and a magazine devoted to sexology. Censors in the capital. Brasilia, have just allowed distribution of the movie “The Exorcist’’ without any cuts. “No formal order has been handed down, but we’re just receiving fewer telephone calls from the colonel saying. ‘Don’t print this, soft-pedal that' and so on.’’ says the editor of a major Rio newspaper. At the same time, Geisel, I who started his government | five months ago with federal orders to cut from newspapers stories about streaking and student protests, has gone out of his way to praise the press. “Very Fair” “I have no reason to complain,” he told newsmen in Brasilia, “(’overage has been very fair . . . very satisfactory.” “I think you have never had the atmosphere and the facilities that you have now," Geisel told newsmen congratulating him on his With birthday last week. “Everything is possible when there is understanding . . and there has been very much understanding.” A month ago a Brasilia newspaper ran a picture of wives of government officials stepping out of their limousines aided by their chauffeurs to shop at the market. Next day Geisel banned use of official cars for unofficial business. A week later the newspaper Jornal do Brasil reported that, as an incentive to move to the austere inland capital, the central bank had offered its directors options on two apartments — one to live in, another to rent out. “WHI Be Corrected’’ Next day a presidential palace announcement said the matter was being investigated. A few uays later the bank said ‘‘certain irregularities” had occurred and would be corrected. The incidents would have been unheard of during the four-year term of Geisel's predecessor. Gen. Emilio Medici. Under Medici’s securityconscious rule, not only ♦’ J lyrics of records but the music itself was closely scrutinized. In some cases censors “discovered’’ that emphasis on different syllables provided appeals for sexuality, subversion or drugs. Censors closely monitored television, newspapers, movies and theater. Even foreign magazines like Der Spiegel of West Germany. Playboy, Penthouse and others were banned from newsstands. “All ( banging ’ “But all this is changing slowly,” says a motion picture company representative. “We hope The Exorcist’ can be the Trojan horse to allow many other no-no's into Brazil ” ( lint Eastwood’s “Magnum 44”. a thriller loosely based on Brazil's “death squad” transplanted to San Francisco, has made it past censors. Transparent allusions in the film to off-duty police who took the law into their own hands and eliminated petty criminals — as they have in Rio and San Paulo —■ were not cut “Even the censors themselves appear to have changed.” says Author Joao Bettencourt, whose play “The Stolen Crime” premiered to overflowing audiences in Rio last week. “One of them had even gone to the U. S. for some sort of media course. At least we can have a dialog with them and argue back and forth." Bettencourt's play is a satirical comedy set in a Rio police .precinct where prisoners are forced to confess by “a little roughing up” or by torture. In Bettencourt’s original draft, one of the prisoners died. Censors kept the man alive — but dead drunk. Several lines lambasting the police were scratched, but the gist of the play, held up for two years on censor desks, unchanged remains Step Further San Paulo’s leading newspaper, 0 Estado, has been urging Gei;el to go a step further in granting freedom to the press by allowing discussion of civil rights and of reinstatement of habeas corpus. Censors, who had blue-penciled the newspaper’s copy for more than a year, allowed the editorial to be printed. Minister of Justice Armando Falcon, a politician who served in a civ ilian government before the military took over, has formed a task force to unify some of the many laws which regulate censorship of the press, books, movies and other media A ministry spokesman said, however, “the aim is only to bring all the legislation together and not strengthen or weaken it.” amount of chemical high explosive could, within several weeks, design and build a crude fission bomb.” Taylor said. Mould Fit By Taylor's definition, a crude bomb would fit into an automobile — a delivery van, for example — and explode with the power of 200,000 pounds of TNT. Detonated during rush hour in a large city, it might kill thousands of people. By comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima 29 years ago this month exploded with the force of 400,000 tons of TNT. killing about 85,000 people. AEC officials won t disclose how much plutonium and enriched uranium exists in the country to make nuclear devices, except to acknowledge that there is enough in existence to make dozens of bombs. With the prospect of a Hollywood script writer's fancies turned to reality, the quality of America’s nuclear safeguards has become a matter of debate. “In our present situation there probably are some points in the system where an inside man and a determined group like the Svmbionese Liberation Army could acquire some special nuclear material, (blier conceded GAO Study Iii 1972 inspectors from the General Accounting Office, congress' watchdog agency, studied safeguards at three unnamed AEC contractors and licensees They also monitored nuclear material shipments In two reports, one issued last fall and another last spring, inspectors documented how easily they gained access to special nuclear material. Chain link fences gave way. Doors, vents and windows quickly yielded entry to nuclear material storage areas. Guards were poorly qualified. One shipment of nearly 209 pounds of enriched uranium made a 200-mile trip in the hack of an open flatbed truck. After the GAO inspections but prior to release of the reports, the AEC began proposing or implementing tougher security requirements. Stricter limits on inventory accuracies like the one at Kerr-McGee went into effect 16 months ago. Tougher regulations for plant security and transportation became effective in March. Last winter the AEC ordered its own study of safeguards. assembling three outside scientists arid a former assistant director of the FBI lo concentrate on the system s vulnerability The study group warned about tin' possible rise of urban terrorism. It found toughened AEC security regulations inadequate we feel that the new regulations are inadequate and that immediate steps should bt* taken to greatly strengthen tin* protection of special nuclear materials,” the panel said Public documents at AEC headquarters in Washington reveal that several licensees have been ordered to increase guard forces and remodel security facilities. AEC officials and critics of the AEC agree that transportation is the weak link in American safeguards. I he AEC conveys most of its weapons-grade uranium and plutonium with its own drivers, guards and trucks, including special armored trucks designed to be impregnable under attack. Drivers and guards maintain constant radio communication with AEC headquarters Licensed Firms Security isn’t as tight for nuclear materials shipped by four commercial companies licensed by the AE( Before March security was minimal — no guards, no ar rn tired trucks Now guards and armored trucks used to carry money are employed. Drivers report to the home office by radio every two hours But it will be several years before special trucks are available for the four commer elal companies. Mon' troublesome in coming years will be a continuous in century of nuclear materials, making certain none have been stolen from a plant an ounce at a tune for weeks or months At Kerr-McGee the monthly plutonium inventory must be within 0.5 percent of the plutonium assigned to the* plant. But Kerr-McGee has so much that 3.3 pounds must disappear before authorities become aware of the loss. A thief familiar with an accounting system might succeed if he never stole more than the inventory’s sensitivity. AEC officials say it will be sevaral more years before the system will detect a theft within hours. It took Kerr-McGee 13 days to conduct the February inventory. The A EC-supervised inventory lasted another HI days. _____ Next: Bomb for Everyone paaaHk ir?ra THESE BIG VALUES AREN’T AS EXPENSIVE AS THEY LOOK! 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