Nuclear body to boost tracking of devices

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - Canada's nuclear regulator is changing the way it tracks lost, stolen and missing nuclear devices following an inquiry about inconsistent reporting from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Newly disclosed internal emails show the Vienna-based agency contacted officials in Ottawa after an investigation raised serious questions in July about how closely the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission monitors devices that could be used in a crude "dirty bomb."

Commission records revealed that dozens of radioactive tools – from an industrial gauge in Red Deer, Alta., to a device used for molecular separation in Montreal – had gone missing in the last five years. Reports of losses or thefts are supposed to be reported to the commission's nuclear security division, which sends case information to the international agency's illicit trafficking database.

Established in 1995, the database is intended to be an authoritative global source of information on the unauthorized acquisition, use and disposal of radioactive material, including accidental losses.

After reading a media account of the wayward devices, an official with the International Atomic Energy Agency sent an email July 4 to John O'Dacre, a senior security adviser at the Canadian commission, wondering why the IAEA database contained no details of six incidents mentioned in the article.

"Is this report accurate?" says the message, one of several recently obtained under the Access to Information Act. "Please advise."

O'Dacre sent a note to Gerry Frappier of the commission's directorate of security, asking whether an updated list of missing devices could be sent to the IAEA "in case some of these incidents were not previously reported."

Eight days later, the international agency wrote O'Dacre again. "We are carrying out an in-depth review," O'Dacre replied. Commission spokesperson Aurèle Gervais confirmed discussions with IAEA officials began during the summer and that "changes to the reporting process are expected shortly."


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