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U.S. Nuclear Experts help China clear Nuclear Material


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Even with ALL of China's Nuclear Expertise, they still the United States help??




U.S. nuclear experts help clear Olympic sites in top-secret Beijing visits


By Sue Bailey And Jim Bronskill, THE CANADIAN PRESS


OTTAWA - American nuclear experts have made at least two trips to Beijing to help move radioactive materials away from Olympic sites before thousands of athletes from Canada and around the world arrive for competition.


The work has been kept so far under wraps that Canadian and even international nuclear safety personnel could offer no details. Sport Canada and Foreign Affairs officials in Ottawa were equally in the dark.


It is known, however, that a delegation of American scientists visited Beijing last fall and again in mid-December to move potentially dangerous radioactive items from the vicinity of Olympic venues.


Sources familiar with the project say it's likely part of a security sweep focusing on highly radioactive devices in hospitals and research labs. The fear is they could be detonated using conventional explosives - effectively becoming a "dirty bomb" that would spew radiation and sow panic at the global sporting spectacle set for August.


Aside from any immediate casualties, the resulting fallout and fear of illness from contamination would leave the Olympic precinct unuseable for weeks or even longer.


Charles Ferguson, fellow for science and technology at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, said such security operations are precautionary.


"I think the worry is that if terrorists were able to take explosives, let's say, and target a radioactive source that's located at or near an Olympic site venue and blow up that facility . . . then that could be a huge international event."


A similar low-profile security effort took place before the 2004 Athens Olympics.


International atomic energy officials and their Greek counterparts contacted the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) for assistance.


The agency enlisted New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories to work with Greece to help prevent the theft of radioactive devices from hospitals, including a blood irradiator and a machine for sterilizing medical supplies.


The team recommended installation of motion sensors, video surveillance systems and special locks to deter thieves from making off with the radioactive sources from Greek facilities.


The Olympics have been a target of terror in the past.


In 1972, Palestinian terrorists scaled a two-metre fence around the Munich athletes' village before dawn, broke into an apartment housing Israeli athletes and eventually killed 11 of them.


A serial bomber determined to use the Atlanta Games to embarrass the United States for legalizing abortion engineered an explosion at a crowded entertainment venue for the 1996 Olympics as television cameras rolled. One woman was killed.


Ferguson said security agencies have taken steps in the past to safeguard radioactive devices before World Cup soccer matches and other international sports events.


"They contact hospitals, universities in those cities to figure out where are the powerful radioactive sources," he said.


"It's not that these things have a high probability of getting loose or falling into the hands of bad actors or terrorists, but they're just taking precautions. Especially for something as high-profile as the Summer Olympics."


The Canadian Olympic team, composed of some 340 athletes, will join over 10,000 other competitors from more than 200 countries when the Games open in Beijing on Aug. 8.


The U.S. NNSA has acknowledged initiating "a co-operative effort with Chinese authorities in support of the 2008 Beijing Olympics."


Officially, however, agencies in both China and the United States are tight-lipped about the security plans due to a non-disclosure agreement between the two countries.


John Broehm, a spokesman for the NNSA, was curt when asked for details of the operation.


"We just don't have any information to give you. That's all I'm going to say."


Officials with the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing did not respond to queries.


Nuclear experts say Chinese caution - and pride - may account for the silence.


"I know a number of Chinese scientists and they are very proud of their accomplishments, which are enormous," said Peter Zimmerman, a former professor of science and security at King's College in London, England.


"And I think China might consider it a loss of face to admit that it had gone to another nation, another nuclear power, to do something like this. I'm sure they would have insisted upon treating it as proprietary with a news blackout."


"It's still a pretty closed society," said Ferguson. "The Chinese government officials need to be educated that when reporters in the West find out about these activities, they need to be better informed.


"Because otherwise people might jump to kind of a worst-case scenario."

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