Idaho State University was convicted last week of losing a small amount of radioactive, weapons-grade plutonium that is too small to make an atomic bomb, but could be used in a dirty bomb, according to a regulatory commission.
DR. Cornelis Van der Schyf, vice president of research at the university, 15 years ago stated that the school had tried to dispose of the plutonium.
"Unfortunately, there was a lack of historical records to demonstrate disposal. In 2003, the source in question had to be reported missing," he said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The radioactive source in question poses no direct health problem or public safety risk."
The school, which reported missing material on October 13, was fined $ 8,500 and has 30 days to challenge the measure. 19659005] Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the agency has "very strict controls on the use and storage of radioactive material, as evidenced by this enforcement action," he said of the proposed fine because he said Not Tracking Material
The agency said that a school worker conducting a routine inventory discovered that the university could only make 13 of its 14 plutonium sources, each weighing approximately the same small amount.
Idaho State University has a nuclear engineering program and works with the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory, considered the nation's primary nuclear research lab, located about 65 miles northwest of the school.
The plutonium was used to develop the route to ensure that nuclear waste containers will not leak and find ways to find radioactive material illegally shipped to the US after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the school said an e-mail to the AP.
The School Crawled documents and found records from 2003 and 2004 that said the material was on campus waiting for disposal. However, there were no documents stating that the plutonium was disposed of properly.
The last document mentioning plutonium dates from November 23, 2003. It said that the Idaho National Laboratory did not want the school's plutonium and technical security office to "dispose of the next shipment of waste."
The school has also reviewed there documents about garbage barrels and other off-campus since 2003 and opened and examined some of them. The officers finally searched the campus but did not find the plutonium.
The Atomic Commission said senior university officials planned to return the school's remaining plutonium to the Department of Energy. It is not clear if that happened.
Energy Department officials did not return calls on Friday.
Dricks, the Commission spokesman, said returning the plutonium was part of the school's plan to reduce its stock of radioactive material.
He said overall that it had "a good record with the NRC".
The Associated Press contributed to this report