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No Worries: The Department of Energy Just Had Plutonium Stolen Out of a Rental SUV at a Marriott

SourceGovernment contractors left plutonium and radioactive cesium in the back seat of a car overnight — only to return the next morning to find someone had swiped the nuclear bomb-making materials, according to a new report.

A year later, the feds still have no idea where the deadly loot is, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

The embarrassing theft happened while two guards working for the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory were on their way to San Antonio, Texas, to pick up nuclear material from a lab there, according to the newspaper.

They’d brought small samples of the plutonium and cesium with them to help calibrate radiation detectors needed for the job — but left all of the materials in their rented Ford Expedition while they stopped for the night at a Marriott hotel in a dangerous neighborhood.

The next morning, they found the car’s window smashed in and all their equipment gone. … In a report to the Energy Department, the Idaho lab claimed the Marriott parking lot was a secure location, because it had walls on two sides and security guards.

But the San Antonio Police Department had recorded 87 thefts at the hotel and its parking lot in 2016 and 2017, according to the paper.

Hey, this could’ve happened to anyone. There but for the grace of God go I. Ye who has never left a cache of plutonium and thousands of dollars in radiation detection equipment in the back of a rental guarded by Ol’ Gus the night watchman from the Marriott, cast the first stone. I mean, what are you gonna do? Play it safe? Haul that stuff up to your room so you can keep an eye on it? Do you have any idea how heave nuclear material detectors are? Seriously, do you? I’m asking because I have no idea. But they must weigh a ton. Not so much that a smash-and-grab artist can’t carry it away. But definitely not worth taking out of car yourself.

And here, in one worst case scenario out of Tom Clancy’s darkest nightmare is my whole attitude toward the government. We just assume we’re getting the very best handling the important jobs. The kinds of “top men” the Feds told Indiana Jones would put the Ark away for safe keeping. But instead what we get are human beings. Worse. We get the contractors who won the lowest bid. Driving fissionable nuclear bomb material across state lines. And protecting it with all the care that anyone would when the shit they didn’t pay for, doesn’t belong to them and therefore it’s no biggie if it goes missing. Do you think for one nanosecond these imbeciles would leave their own Macbook in the back seat of a rented SUV in a seedy neighborhood? Or their wallets and phones in the center console? Fuck no. But a few radioactive lumps of decaying metal that emits invisible death rays and can be made to incinerate a city? Let’s put our faith in those two walls and the security guard asleep in his booth over there. Sounds like a plan.

And kudos too to the Department of Energy for keeping this under wraps for a year. Again, that is the quintessential government way of doing things. If they’d discovered someone’s stash of nuclear bomb material, they’d have held a press conference and handed each other plaques commemorating themselves for saving the world. But lose some plutonium and that’s on a need-to-know basis. And if it just happens to be sitting on the kitchen table of the guy on the other side of the wall of your duplex, give us a call when your hair and teeth start falling out and your kid grows a third eye. “The US Federal Government: We Don’t Care. Because It’s Not Our Jobs to Care.”