Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Translation: Shimane Univ. reprimanded for allowing researcher to buy uranium off the Net

I came across this story while scanning today. It is about a Chinese research student at Shimane University (Shimane Prefecture) who was reprimanded for purchasing about 3 grams of yellowcake. The article isn't exactly clear on which uranium oxide it was, but it is probably safe to assume it was the most common form, triuranium oxide. Here is my translation: "Shimane University Researcher Buys Uranium on the Internet, MEXT Issues a Reprimand" December 20, 2006, 9:45pm
"On the 20th of December, Shimane University announced that a former Chinese researcher from its Interdisciplinary Faculty of Science and Engineering purchased 2.8 grams of yellowcake over the Internet from a distributor in the U.S. Under laws policing nuclear materials, the university does have permission to own small quantities (less than 300 grams) for research purposes, but it does not have approval to purchase such material from abroad. Shimane Univerity was reprimanded in a report issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The report also indicated no one has been effected by radiation. [ed. This may seem random, but the Japanese are obsessed with radiation] The MEXT Nuclear Safety Division has never heard of nuclear materials being purchased over the internet before. In September of last year, the Chinese researcher ordered 2.6 grams of yellowcake, 0.128 grams of uranium metal and 0.068 grams of thorium dixode from an American distributor over the internet to use a reference substances for radiometric dating. The materials were delivered in a small, single bundle to a university research lab by a parcel service in June of this year. The triuranium oxide was packed in a test tube in powder form. The millimeter-sized rectangular flecks of uranium and thorium dixode were packed in plastic containers wadded with cotton. In July, the university consulted with MEXT about filing a request for permission to possess the materials, more than half a year after the fact. A panel of outside nuclear experts were brought in to investigate the how and why of the violation because the researcher returned to China last November, two months after the purchase. When contacted, the researcher claimed he was unaware of the laws governing nuclear materials when he made the purchases. According to the MEXT Nuclear Safety Division, countries manage the use and sale of uranium and thorium by issuing liscenses for each transaction. Shimane University is not allowed to make purchases from unliscensed distributors, regardless of whether they are located inside or outside of Japan."
The researcher bought three grams of yellowcake from the U.S. over the internet and left for home without telling anyone. Simply awesome. That probably had to be one of the more surprising FedEx deliveries of 2006. I'm just glad the first successful illegal purchse of radioactive material over the internet on the books was so mundane.

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