* Update, 11:24pm: As noted by a comment below, there is a Bechtel connection to this security issue: the suspect worked as a low-level contractor for Bechtel Jacobs Co. at the East Tennessee Technology Park, a cleanup site that once housed the government’s gaseous diffusion plant used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
National lab worker accused of stealing secrets
Employee allegedly stole classified nuclear information, tried to sell it
WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors on Thursday accused a low-level worker at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory — birthplace of the nuclear bomb — with stealing highly classified information about how to make enriched uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.
He was allegedly caught trying to sell it to someone he thought was representing another country, someone who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. Federal officials will not say which country the agent was pretending to represent.
WNBC’s Jonathan Dienst reported the suspect was arrested earlier on Thursday. An official announcement about the sting was expected later in the day, he said.
Sources reportedly said money, and not ideology, was the motive for the theft.
The alleged security breach was discovered before it could do any damage. But the incident also exposes another serious security breach at the national laboratories.
Last fall, for example, a large cache of classified documents from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was discovered when police, looking for drugs, conducted a search of a mobile home.
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The Oak Ridge National lab, located in eastern Tennessee, near Knoxville, was established in 1943.
The lab was part of the government’s secret Manhattan Project, which was designed to build the first atomic bomb. It is the Energy Department’s largest science and energy laboratory.
The suspect is expected to be arraigned in federal court in Knoxville on Thursday.