A former contract worker at a nuclear laboratory run by the U.S. Energy Department was charged with stealing classified equipment used for uranium enrichment, the Justice Department said.
Officials said Roy Oakley, 67, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Knoxville, Tennessee, as part of an undercover FBI operation in which federal agents posed as representatives of a foreign nation seeking to buy the materials.
They said Oakley worked as a contract employee doing cleanup work at the East Tennessee Technology Park, a site within the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Energy Department's largest science and energy research facility.
According to the two-count indictment, Oakley in January possessed equipment known as "barriers" and associated hardware used for uranium enrichment.
He gave it to another person, having reason to believe it would hurt the United States and help a foreign nation, the indictment said.
The second count charged him with converting the equipment, which belonged to the Energy Department, for his own use.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said that none of the stolen equipment was handed to a foreign government or terrorist organization.
"The facts of this case demonstrate the importance of safeguarding our nuclear technology and pursuing aggressive prosecutions against those who attempt to breach the safeguards and put that technology in the wrong hands," Wainstein said in a statement.
If convicted, Oakley faces a maximum punishment on each count of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
A group called Project on Government Oversight issued a report in October criticizing lax security at the lab, which it said is home to most of the U.S. stockpile of highly enriched uranium -- enough to make about 14,000 nuclear warheads.
Peter Stockton, an investigator for the group, said on Thursday that "a series of troubling security breaches show that the nuclear weapons complex simply does not take security as seriously as it should."
The indictment was unsealed on Thursday when Oakley appeared in federal court in Knoxville, the officials said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Temmuz 2007, 15:02