Gee, first we had the Los Alamos Meth Lab case, then the Sandia Stalker, and now Oak Ridge has A. Q. Oakley.
NNSA should have its own episode of Cops.
Roy Lynn Oakley, a Bechtel Jacobs contract employee at Oak Ridge, attempted to sell sections of a gaseous diffusion barrier—not uranium as some mistakenly report, but the technology to enrich it—to an FBI agent posing as a French espion.
I haven’t seen the indictment yet, but DOJ put out a statement:
Specifically, Count 1 of the Indictment charges that on January 26, 2007, Roy Lynn Oakley, having possession of, access to, and having been entrusted with sections of “barriers” and associated hardware used for uranium enrichment through the process of gaseous diffusion which constituted appliances within the meaning of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and which involved and incorporated Restricted Data within the meaning of Title 42, United States Code, Section 2014(y), and the said, Roy Lynn Oakley, having reason to believe that such data would be utilized to injure the United States and secure an advantage to a foreign nation, did communicate, transmit, and disclose such data to another person in violation of the Atomic Energy Act, specifically Title 42 United States Code, Section 2274(b).
The Knoxville News-Sentinel, which published the excellent courtroom drawing by R. Daniel Proctor (above), has the best coverage so far. If you read one story, read Frank Munger and Jamie Satterfield’s trash or treason story in the News-Sentinel.
Basically, Oakley—far from being A Q Khan—took a couple of broken sections home, then tried to sell them rather ineptly.
Oakley’s lawyer, the feisty Herb Moncier, is calling the diffusion barriers “trash.” “Moncier said Oakley’s job was to break up metal rods so they could be thrown away,” according to AP’s Duncan Mansfield. “Moncier did not know what the rods were made of, but said they were not uranium or dangerous.”
Tubes, Not Rods
Did not know what they were made of. Yeah. Hey Herb, maybe you should figure that out before trial. I humbly suggest grabbing a copy of the classic Uranium Enrichment and Nuclear Weapon Proliferation by Allan S. Krass, Peter Boskma, Boelie Elzen and Wim A. Smit.
Krass et al provide a very clear explanation of sintered nickel powder tubes—which sound a lot like Moncier’s “rods”—why they are so hard to produce and, implicitly, why a would-be nuclear state might want to take a look at our “trash”:
It is now easy to understand why a barrier is quite difficult to produce. The actual methods used by various countries are classified, but it is known that the United States used sintered nickel powders, while those in the new French Tricastin plant are “ceramic.”
Whatever the material, it must be bonded under high pressure and temperature into sheets only a few microns thick. These very thin sheets must be able to withstand pressure differentials of the order of 0.3 to 0.5 kg/cm 2 for many years without failure.
The barrier must be assembled in a way which will maximize its area of contract with the gas. In US gaseous diffusion stages this is done by manufacturing the barrier in the form of sheets of cylindrical tube bundles.
The individual tubes which make up the barrier must be small enough to provide a large surface area for diffusion but large enough to permit easy flow of the process gas. Again, no information is available on the size of the tubes, but if it is assumed that the tubes are about 2 m long and 1 cm in diameter, then about 160,000 of them would be used in such a stage. This can be compared with some of the early US stages which contained several thousand tubes each.
The best part of all of this is that Oakley thought the French might want our obsolete gaseous diffusion technology, even though Areva is planning to decommission their own diffusion plant once George Besse II, a URENCO centrifuge plant, comes on line at Tricastin.
Still, Oakley called the French embassy in Washington to offer the broken tubes. “They laughed at him,” according to a document filed by Moncier.
Laughed at him … then presumably called the FBI.
Bad boys, bad boys …