The Infamous Uranium Thief

Samuel Reason | June 14th, 2018

Whenever people debate about nuclear power plants, one thing comes up as a heated subject: nuclear materials are dangerous and having them in the area could mean they fall into the wrong hands. Well, that is exactly what happened in a power plant in North Carolina during the 70s, when two whole drums of enriched uranium were stolen.

David Dale was a temp, and he was very annoyed with his life. A temporary employee of General Electric Company of North Carolina and in 1979, he hatched a plot in an attempt to make some fast money. So one day when he made it into a restricted area of the Wilmington power plant, an opportunity presented itself: steal some uranium and ransom it back. No one really knows how he was able to wheel our two 5 gallon drums of low enriched uranium without anyone asking any questions. But he did, and then he casually placed them in the boot of his car!

Driving away it must have hit Dale that he did not really have any contacts to sell on his stolen uranium too, so he made the only play left blackmail the plant for $100,000. He did this by sending the CEO of the plant a small vial of nuclear material and explained if he did not receive his money then he would tell all the anti-nuclear groups in the country how this plant had lost its uranium due to low security. Essentially he was telling the plant’s CEO to pay up or be shut down.

It may have worked but the plant got in touch with the FBI and they quickly wrapped up the case. A special organization deals with these sorts of crimes called the Nuclear Emergency Response Team. They quickly located Dale and arrested him. The uranium was apparently too low grade to be turned into a bomb, but it is a crime that shows how important it is to keep nuclear plants very secure. Uranium is always a toxin and therefore anyone who came in touch with it could have suffered severe health issues.

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