WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Recently declassified wiretap transcripts of conversations between Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) founder Zalman Shapiro and venture capitalist David Lowenthal reveal that illegal storage practices led to a dangerous nuclear spill. Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by IRmep's Center for Policy and Law Enforcement, the files were heavily censored by the Central Intelligence Agency which blocked release of 225 pages.
The transcript, http://www.irmep.org/ila/numec/08292011lowenthal.pdf, details that Shapiro and Lowenthal's interest in completing NUMEC's sale to Atlantic Richfield Company outweighed public safety concerns. The FBI and CIA investigated Shapiro and Lowenthal in the 1960s under suspicion of diverting highly enriched uranium (HEU) from NUMEC into the clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program. For decades the CIA has blocked release of its files and equity content in other government agency reports about NUMEC.
This week the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) $170 million cleanup of NUMEC's toxic waste dump had to be halted after contractors experienced unanticipated difficulties handling 55-gallon radioactive waste drums. The declassified 1969 transcript identifies 200 stainless steel drums illegally stored by NUMEC were improperly treated with fluoride which accelerated corrosion. Full public release of remaining secret CIA and FBI files could help determine the precise location of the barrels and allow USACE to forecast likely migration of toxic waste through groundwater and abandoned underground coal mine shafts.
The Center for Policy and Law Enforcement multi-year grant-funded research project on NUMEC forwarded files to USACE and will identify other classified files which could maximize safety and minimize taxpayer-funded cleanup costs. USACE is now considering "possible action." CIA files could also reveal exactly how much NUMEC HEU entered the Israeli nuclear weapons program.
Files could also reveal why CIA officials unofficially insisted that NUMEC diverted materials. Carl Duckett, former deputy of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, claimed the agency came to the conclusion by 1968 that “NUMEC material had been diverted by the Israelis and used in fabricating weapons.” CIA Tel Aviv station chief John Hadden claimed that NUMEC was “an Israeli operation from the beginning.” NUMEC hosted Israeli spy Rafael Eitan (who later directed Jonathan Pollard's espionage against the US) and was also frequently visited by Israelis now known to be involved in nuclear weapons development.