Business, Finance & Economics

Kodak kept weapons-grade uranium and nuclear reactor in upstate New York

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Eastman Kodak announced today that it had filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy code, along with its US subsidiaries.

Credit:

Guy Solimano

Kodak has confirmed it used weapons-grade uranium and housed a fully functioning nuclear reactor in an underground lab near Greece, New York for 30 years, according to news reports.

And according to the Democrat and Chronicle, almost nobody in the community knew about it — until now.

The small nuclear reactor was housed in a 14- by 24-foot concrete room beneath the basement-level of Building 82 in Kodak Park.

Described as resembling “Robby the Robot from a 1950s science fiction movie" by the Democrat and Chronicle, it contained 3.5 pounds of highly-enriched uranium.

A spokesman for the film and camera company and former scientist for the firm told CNN that such an amount was less than one-tenth of the amount necessary to make a crude nuclear device.

Also, the uranium was alloyed with aluminum in plates sealed in sleeves that were not moved for three decades.

"Disassembling the device and removing these plates was a process that took highly trained experts more than a day to perform," said Christopher Veronda.

More from GlobalPost: Eastman Kodak, storied American camera maker, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (VIDEO)

However, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the Los Angeles Times that the company had enriched 1,582 grams of uranium-235 up to 93.4 percent, a level considered weapons-grade.

And advocates for preventing nuclear proliferation said Kodak's cache highlighted the risk that terrorists could obtain enough fuel to build a nuclear device.

"In this day and age, no one should be allowed to possess nuclear-weapons-usable material without providing an armed defense of that material," CNN quoted Edwin Lyman, a nuclear physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, as saying.

"There really should be an effort to eliminate the use of materials in commercial companies that could be used by terrorists to make nuclear weapons."

Kodak reportedly turned the material over to the government in 2007.