Toronto Star

Nuclear body to boost tracking of devices

Dozens of radioactiv­e tools have gone missing


OTTAWA— 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 a Canadian Press 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 flagged by The Canadian Press, 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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