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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro to Secretary Perry: Where is the Missing Nuclear Material?

Jul 16, 2018
Press Release
Castro Requests More Information on Nuclear Material Lost in San Antonio, Highlights Serious Health and National Security Risks Lost Material Poses

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, today requested more information from the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry regarding plutonium and cesium that went missing after a March 21, 2017 incident in San Antonio. Congressman Castro’s inquiry comes after press reports detailed the loss by two Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory security experts that drove to San Antonio, Texas of equipment and radioactive material brought into the state used to retrieve nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab.

“I am deeply concerned with reports of the March 21, 2017 incident in San Antonio in which two Department of Energy employees lost radioactive material. Reports indicate the material unaccounted for (MUF) includes radioactive samples of plutonium and cesium posing serious U.S. national security and health risks to my district, Texas and our nation,” said Rep. Castro.

Rep. Castro continued: “As a representative of San Antonio, I am seeking all information pertaining the ongoing efforts to locate the MUF. While I understand the sensitive nature of this subject, there are a number of unanswered questions which I will need answers to provide the necessary information to my constituents who are concerned by this event.”

Full text of the letter follows and can be viewed here.

July 16, 2018

The Honorable Rick Perry
Secretary of Energy
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585

Dear Secretary Perry:

I am deeply concerned with reports of the March 21, 2017 incident in San Antonio in which two Department of Energy employees lost radioactive material. Reports indicate the material unaccounted for (MUF) includes radioactive samples of plutonium and cesium posing serious U.S. national security and health risks to my district, Texas and our nation.

As a representative of San Antonio, I am seeking all information pertaining the ongoing efforts to locate the MUF. While I understand the sensitive nature of this subject, there are a number of unanswered questions which I will need answers to provide the necessary information to my constituents who are concerned by this event. Therefore, I have the following questions:

  1. Considering the significant danger to the public of loose radioactive material, why was the public not notified of this incident immediately after it occurred?
  2. What is the Department of Energy’s disclosure and notification procedure after any such loss of radioactive material?
  3. How much plutonium and cesium are missing from the March 2017 incident?
  4. What information do you have about the March 2017 incident and the following incident?
  5. What elements of the Department of Energy or other federal or local agencies are involved in the recovery of the MUF?  If so, what progress has been made to date with their attempts at recovering the MUF?
  6. Please list all incidents in the last five years that detail the loss of radioactive materials controlled or owned by the Department of Energy in Texas that has not been reported to Congress?
  7. In the event of MUF involving radioactive material, how did you notify members of Congress whose districts or states were at risk?
  8. What assistance is the Department of Energy providing local law enforcement, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies tasked with the recovery of such radioactive material unaccounted for with their investigations?

In addition to your answers in a written format, I would also request a briefing from you or your designee for me and other members of Congress on this issue. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your prompt response and hope you take seriously a culture of nuclear security and prudence.

Sincerely,

Joaquin Castro
Member of Congress

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