Tue., August 4, 2009 1:38pm (EDT)

Small Beetles Found In Plutonium Shipping Containers
By Noel Brown
Updated: 5 years ago

AUGUSTA, Ga.  —  
The drugstore beetle is about the size of the tip of an ink pen. The top left image show a breakdown of the shipping container used to transport plutonium. The top right image shows the Celotex packing material that the beetles infested.  (photo courtesy of the Department of Energy)
The drugstore beetle is about the size of the tip of an ink pen. The top left image show a breakdown of the shipping container used to transport plutonium. The top right image shows the Celotex packing material that the beetles infested. (photo courtesy of the Department of Energy)
A report [PDF link] released by the Department of Energy reveals that several years ago two shipping containers of weapons-grade plutonium contained live drugstore beetles.

These insects are small and will eat almost anything.

According to the report, the beetles were sealed into the containers at a packing facility in Hanford Washington. They were able to survive by eating the glue between layers of an insulation material called Celotex.

Officials with the DOE maintain that no nuclear materials were compromised at the time and that thousands of theses kinds of containers have shipped without incident since.

But that’s not enough to ease the concerns of Tom Clements. He is a spokesperson with the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

"The mere fact that beetles got into plutonium shipping containers does raise some concerns about the quality of the environment and controls on the packing end of this whole operation."

Officials with the DOE say they plan to replace the offending packing material for future shipments.