What can you get with a telephone, a fax machine, and a post-office box from Mail Boxes Etc.? Let’s see, a DVD from Amazon.com, oatmeal cookies from your mother, and oh—a license to obtain radioactive material from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

That’s right, undercover congressional investigators disguised as regular old businessmen were granted a license from the NRC to buy enough radioactive material to make a “dirty bomb,” according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The investigators never even left their desks when applying for the license, according to the report, and were barely subjected to background checks.

From an article in The Washington Post:

"'NRC officials approved the request with a minimal background check that included no face-to-face interview or visit to the purported company to ensure it existed and complied with safety rules,' the report says.

'We altered the license so that it appeared our bogus company could purchase an unrestricted quantity' and radioactive material, the report says. A dirty bomb is designed to use conventional explosives to cause immediate injury to people nearby but also to cause a long-lasting threat by contaminating a wider area with radioactive material."

Given the world’s woes with terrorism, rampant pollutants, and global warming, the last thing it needs is lackadaisical enforcement of regulations on radioactive materials.

Sounds like quite an explosive situation.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in July 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007