For three decades, camera company Kodak had a secret deep inside an underground lab in its Rochester, New York research facility: weapons-grade uranium and a californium neutron flux multiplier. (No, not a flux capacitor.) They stored 3.5 pounds of the uranium, apparently not enough to make a nuclear weapon but still not something you'd expect to find in most corporate research labs. The Union of Concerned Scientists are, well, concerned. From CNN:
"Kodak confirms it had weapons-grade uranium in underground lab"
Kodak turned the material over to the government in 2007, under heavy security. But for more than 30 years, the company had a device called a californium neutron flux multiplier, or CFX, in a specially built labyrinth beneath Building 82 at its labs near Rochester, New York. The device was about the size of a refrigerator. It was not a reactor, but rather a hunk of metal emitting radiation. Its purpose was to create a beam of neutrons to use for scanning and testing other materials. The device's primary source of neutron radiation was the radioactive element californium, but the stream of neutrons produced by the californium was multiplied by passing it through a lattice of highly enriched uranium U-235, whose nuclear fission released additional neutrons.
According to a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Kodak's uranium was highly enriched -- to a level approaching 93.4%. That is the type of weapons-grade material that U.S. government agencies are trying to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on…
Kodak says it never intended to hide the CFX, and it was licensed by both state and federal officials. But the fact that the company was handling highly enriched uranium was never widely publicized.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.