United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Information Notice No. 98-06: Unauthorized Use of License to Obtain Radioactive Materials, and its Implications under the Expanded Title 18 of the U.S. Code

UNITED STATES
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555-0001

February 19, 1998

NRC INFORMATION NOTICE 98-06: UNAUTHORIZED USE OF LICENSE TO OBTAIN RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS, AND ITS IMPLICATIONS UNDER THE EXPANDED TITLE 18 OF THE U.S. CODE

Addressees

All NRC licensees authorized to possess licensed material.

Purpose

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is issuing this information notice to alert addressees to an incident involving unauthorized use of a broad-scope academic medical license to obtain radioactive materials and the subsequent criminal investigation of the incident under revised Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It is expected that recipients will review the information for applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to avoid similar problems. However, suggestions contained in this information notice are not NRC requirements, and no specific action or written response is required.

Description of Circumstances

An unauthorized individual, who presented himself as an author doing research and as a guest of the institution, asked a staff member of the institution's radiation safety office for the institution's broad-scope academic medical license so that he could examine it. Apparently, the individual made a copy of part of the license and used it to order at least 2 radioactive sources (74 to 185 mega-becquerels [2 to 5 millicuries] of cadmium-109 and 185 mega-becquerels [5 millicuries] of sodium-22) from a broker. The unauthorized individual apparently waited for the delivery truck and took possession of the first source when it was delivered. The individual has indicated that the first source was transported to a foreign country by an associate. When the second source was delivered, an institution staff member observed the radioactive label and told the individual he must take the package to the radiation safety officer (RSO) for processing. After the individual took the second source to the RSO, the RSO became suspicious and the unauthorized purchases were detected. It was subsequently determined that the individual had a history of criminal activity. As a result of his unauthorized use of the institution's license, the individual was arrested and charged with one count of wire fraud and four counts under the revised Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 39, "Explosives and Other Dangerous Articles," Section 831, "Prohibited Transactions Involving Nuclear Materials." Section 831 provides, in part, punishment for whoever without lawful authority, intentionally receives, possesses, uses, transfers, alters, disposes of, or disperses any nuclear material or nuclear byproduct material (emphasis added), or for whoever with intent to deprive another of nuclear material or nuclear byproduct material, knowingly makes an unauthorized use, disposition, or transfer, of nuclear material or nuclear byproduct material belonging to another, or uses fraud and thereby obtains nuclear material or nuclear byproduct material belonging to another.

Discussion

Although licenses issued by the NRC and Agreement States are not protected as classified or Safeguards Information, or by physical protection measures, the above incident identifies a clear need to be sensitive to potentially inappropriate uses being made of their materials licenses. The incident described above did not present a threat to public health and safety, but raises concerns and highlights an important point regarding the criminal use of radioactive materials. Section 831 of Chapter 39 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code represents a significant expansion of Federal Bureau of Investigation jurisdiction to initiate criminal investigations and pursue prosecutions when radioactive materials are involved. The above-cited incident called for the use of this newly expanded jurisdiction.

Addressees should be aware that licenses and radioactive materials could be intentionally used in an unauthorized manner that could lead to serious consequences and could result in prosecution under Federal criminal law.

This information notice requires no specific action or written response. If you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact the technical contact listed below.

/s/'d by /s/'d by
Elizabeth Q. Ten Eyck, Director
Division of Fuel Cycle Safety and Safeguards
Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
Jack W. Roe, Acting Director
Division of Reactor Program Management
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation
Technical contact: John Davidson, NMSS
(301) 415-8130
E-Mail: jjd@nrc.gov

(NUDOCS Accession Number 9802180052)
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