–linked from JFK Conspiracy Con–
A book about the case of Karen Silkwood, who was run off the road and killed on her way to deliver incriminating documents against her employer Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation in 1974, is instructive on the subject of trafficking. Following are excerpts from The Killing of Karen Silkwood by Richard Rashke.
Karen Silkwood..heard that the Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation was hiring laboratory analysts at its plutonium plant on the Cimmarron River, near Crescent [OK]. It looked like a real opportunity to develop her technical talents and make more money. In August 1972, she began work in the [K-M] Metallography Laboratory, which tested plutonium pellets…
…The metal doesn’t exist as such in nature. A by-product of neutron-bombarded uranium, it is now collected from the waste of nuclear reactors. For years it was used only in bombs –thirteen pounds is enough to build an atomic bomb.
Kerr-McGee’s plutonium came from the Atlantic Richfield Company in Hanford, Washington, transported in bulletproof vans with four drivers and gun ports. In the beginning, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) rode shotgun in special station wagons to make sure terrorists wouldn’t hijack the..caravans…
[At the plant] Workers visually inspected each pellet to see if it was cracked or chipped and then loaded them all into eight-foot-long, pencil thin stainless steel rods… If the rods passed inspection, workers wrapped each one in plastic, bundled 100 rods together and lowered them into floor wells to await the AEC shotgun riders or Wells Fargo for the ride back to Washington.
The rods, now fully inspected fuel pins, were destined for the AEC’s Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) at Hanford, [WA] under the management of Westinghouse. The FFTF tested fuel cores for the fast breeder reactor the AEC hoped to build in Clinch River, Tennessee [near Oak Ridge]. Fueled by plutonium instead of pure uranium, fast breeders are designed to make more plutonium than they burn. Kerr-McGee had a fixed-price contract to make 12,916 rods for the first test core and 3380 for the second. NUMEC, later purchased by Babcock and Wilcox, the firm that designed and built the Three Mile Island reactor, supplied Westinghouse with the other half of the fuel pins.
[Karen] told [a coworker] she had found out that forty pounds of plutonium, enough to make almost three atomic bombs, were missing from the plant. [He] made a note of their conversation in his desk log… That she even knew about the MUF [Material Unaccounted For] was significant, for investigators would later speculate that there was a plutonium smuggling ring at the Cimarron plant….
After six years as governor, [Bob] Kerr won a hotly contested seat to the United States Senate in 1948…Within a year, he had earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working, smartest, most eloquent, and sharpest-tongued senators in Congress….
In 1952, he thought he was ready for the presidency… Only Oklahoma and Arizona gave him all their votes [at the Democratic Convention in Chicago]… Kerr returned to Washington, head high, but bitter and angry. There was nothing left for him but to grab power –raw power, Senate power, legislative power that brings Presidents to their knees.
When Lyndon Johnson, a close friend of Kerr’s, became John F. Kennedy’s vice-president in 1960, he left a vacuum in the Senate leadership. Kerr stepped in. He had carefully built his power base on the Senate Committees of Public Works, Finance, and Aeronautical and Space Sciences.
…When Kerr-McGee bought into the uranium business in 1952, Uncle Sam was its only customer, and Baptist Bob was there, standing under the flag, to help his country. He arranged through Admiral Lewis Strauss, chairman of the AEC (Kerr had voted for his confirmation as chairman), for Kerr-McGee to sell the AEC all the uranium the company could dig.
By 1959, Kerr-McGee had an AEC contract worth $300 million. Senator Albert Gore of Tennessee, chairman of the Raw Materials Subcommittee, had to approve the contract. Gore just happened to be Kerr’s friend and a co-owner with Kerr of the Kermac Ranch in Oklahoma.
Gordon Weller, president of the Uranium Institute, which represented the hard-pressed uranium companies Kerr-McGee was squeezing out of the mines, decided to take on Bob Kerr. “We believe it can be positively proved,” he wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy, calling for an investigation of Kerr-McGee, “that..in the production, processing and sale of uranium materials to the AEC..those with political influence got the markets. Members of Congress who chose to personally engage in uranium soon became the leading producers…”
…It wasn’t just oil and uranium. Kerr-McGee filled its corporate sails with helium, a gas needed for rockets and missiles….
All the while Kerr was serving Uncle Sam, Dean A. McGee was building the Kerr-McGee Corporation into an energy conglomerate… Phillips Petroleum underwrote 35 percent of Kerr-McGee’s drilling costs for half the profit. Kerr-McGee soon had a string of wells dotting the Louisiana coast.
…McGee pioneered Kerr-McGee into another field in 1949. K-M became the first United States company to sign non-domestic oil-drilling contracts for work in the Saudi Arabia-Kuwait Neutral Zone in the Persian Gulf and in Mexico near the Yucatan Peninsula.
McGee kept expanding the company…
[By late 1958] The uranium loop was now complete. Kerr-McGee prospected, mined, milled, processed, and manufactured. By 1970 it owned one quarter of all known uranium reserves in the United States and was the biggest uranium producer in the country.
…The fact is, security a K-M was so lax, anyone could steal plutonium at any time and never get caught. Up until April 1974…the AEC did not require K-M to have a security organization of uniformed, armed guards. In May, K-M started deploying two guards…trained at K-M headquarters… One..turned out to be..a convicted bank robber….
Before 1974, Kerr-McGee also had no way of telling whether workers were stealing uranium and plutonium pellets. “In your pocket, if you want,” former K-M worker [testified], “all you could carry.” …K-M guards were supposed to inspect all packages. In fact, they frequently didn’t… it would still have been easy to steal a few grams or ounces or pounds… One worker brought a uranium pellet home to his son, who took it to school…. In another instance, two boys around six or seven years old showed some pellets to a neighbor working in her garden. They got them from their father, they said…
nuclear fuel pellets
[National Public Radio] broadcast that K-M couldn’t account for between forty-four and sixty-six pounds of plutonium, enough to make several bombs. The next day, Burnham reported in the [NY] Times that thousands of pounds of nuclear materials were unaccounted for in the fifteen plants.. that process nuclear materials. K-M [in Crescent, OK] was one of those plants… [An] unnamed official told Burnham that one plant [among them] could not account for 9000 pounds of highly enriched uranium.
…Rolling Stone reporter Howard Kohn speculated that there was a plutonium smuggling ring at K-M, that Silkwood knew it and that she paid for her knowledge… but he couldn’t find a smoking gun.
[An FBI source] cautioned [independent investigator, Bill] Taylor not to rule out CIA involvement in the Silkwood case because the CIA was directly involved in monitoring the nuclear industry, and the security director of each nuclear facility was under CIA surveillance. [The FBI source] said Kerr-McGee would have to deal directly or indirectly with the CIA before it got the AEC contract to work with plutonium.
Finally, [the FBI source] confirmed that the CIA had been diverting plutonium from nuclear plants and giving it to countries friendly to the United States and that a number of CIA agents had been contaminated with the plutonium they had diverted.
Ronald Hammock: the Oklahoma Highway Patrolman had worked for Kerr-McGee from 1969 to 1972, a year and a half of that period in the plutonium plant. Hammock told the jury he received no specialized training…
…Hammock emphasized that there was no security at the plant while he worked there. “You could have taken [plutonium] out of there in any way you wanted to,” he testified.
Robert S. Kerr “died suddenly of a heart attack on New Year’s Day, 1963”