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Senator Pressures NRC to Clear NUMEC President of Illegal Uranium Diversions to Israel

"NRC does not have information that would allow it to unequivocally conclude that nuclear material was not diverted from the site, nor that all previously unaccounted for material was accounted for during the decommissioning of the site."


The office of Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania attempted to obtain a statement from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. On August 27, 2009, Arlen Specter wrote to Rebecca Schmidt asking that the NRC "issue a formal public statement confirming that he [constituent Zalman Shapiro] was not involved in any activities related to the diversion of uranium to Israel."

Zalman Shapiro was formerly president of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation at Apollo, PA. According to a secret GAO report "Nuclear Diversion in the US?" partially declassified on May 6, 2010 NUMEC received over 22 tons of uranium-235, the key material used to fabricate nuclear weapons.

Israel's top economic espionage case officer Rafael Eitan, who handled spy Jonathan Pollard in the 1980s, infiltrated NUMEC under false pretenses in 1968. According to Anthony Cordesman, "there is no conceivable reason for Eitan to have gone [to the Apollo plant] but for the nuclear material." CIA Tel Aviv station chief John Hadden called NUMEC "an Israeli operation from the beginning." NUMEC's venture capital came from David Lowenthal, who had close ties to Israeli intelligence and David Ben-Gurion,who spearheaded Israel's nuclear weapons program.

A March, 2010 audit by two former NRC officials published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists confirmed not only that 337 kilograms of NUMEC highly enriched uranium are still unaccounted for but that all circumstantial evidence still points to diversion to Israel.  On November 2, 2009 the NRC denied Specter's request.

According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by the US Patent and Trademark Office, in 2009 Shapiro was nominated by his daughter, Deborah Shapiro, for a National Medal of Technology and Innovation—the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on scientists, engineers, and inventors..  Shapiro is still eligible for the 2010 NMTI as a 2009 nominee.

PDF Document/Date Contents
05/29/2009 Deborah Shapiro NMTI nomination forms for Zalman Shapiro with required letters of recommendation (below).
05/18/2009 Aram Schefrin, Shapiro's nephew, letter of support.  "I'm an attorney and author. Zalman Shapiro is my uncle. I have no personal familiarity with his work -but I know him very well. And I cannot imagine anyone more qualified, as a human being, for your award."
05/21/2009 Grace Ann Geibel, RSM, PhD of Carlow University letter of support. " He has demonstrated courageous risk-taking from the beginning of his professional career."
05/18/2009 John T. Conway, Chairman Emeritus, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Committee, "For a thirteen-year period I was on the staff of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy of the U.S. Congress, most of which time I was Staff Director with oversight responsibility of the U.S. Government's authorization and appropriation of funds for both civilian and military applications of atomic energy....

"During my career I interfaced with most of the early pioneers in the field including Drs. Oppenheimer, Seaborg, McMillan and Admiral Rickover. If Admiral Rickover were alive today, I am certain he would also be among those recommending Zalman Shapiro for the award. "

05/18/2009 Kirsten E. Gillibrand, US Senator, " Although I am not personally acquainted with Dr. Shapiro, his impressive history of outstanding contributions to our country recently came to my attention."
05/28/2009 Charles Lemaire, a registered patent attorney of  Lemaire Patent Law Firm. "Dr. Shapiro's contributions are extremely significant in providing enduring and far-reaching benefits to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the United States and J strongly recommend his confirmation for this award."
05/20/2009 James C. Roddy, Sentory Consultant, McCrory & McDowell LLC.  "I became acquainted with Zalman Shapiro approximately 25 years ago. We served together on a committee to raise funds for environmental projects in Israel."
05/23/2009 Seth Corey, Murphy-Rosen Research Professor of Cancer Biology and Chemotherapy, Northwestern University.  "His contributions have been critical for the advance of non.fossil fuel sources of energy -something that is so incredibly important in 2009 and for our country's energy-independence and national security and general wellbeing.
05/19/2009 Mark J. Lesky, NOVA Chemicals "Dr. Zalman Shapiro has consistently demonstrated leadership in technological innovation combining vision, integrity and humility despite enduring untold hardships and enormous challenges."
05/26/2010 Stuart Hoffman, PNC Financial Services Group, "Dr. Shapiro's life is not merely punctuated with innovations/contributions of enormous benefit to our country; it Is Indeed a continuum of outstanding achievements on behalf of the greater good."
05/15/2010 Victor Parsonnet, MD, St. Barnabas "I write to inform you of his extraordinary gift to the health and long-term survival·of many patients under my care."
05/25/2009 Oscar S. Gray, University of Maryland. "I have known Dr. Shapiro for over fifty years. My experience with his technological career dates from 1957, when I left the Department of State to join him as an officer of a start-up company that he was in the process of founding, Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, headquartered in Apollo, Pa. (NUMEC). He was the President of the company. I became its Secretary and Treasurer, and later a Vice President."
05/25/2010 Jerome L. Rosenberg, Research Integrity Officer, University of Pittsburgh. "I met the nominee shortly after I arrived in Pittsburgh in 1953, and we have been acquaintances, although not scientific co-workers, since then."
05/20/2009 Bernard L. Cohen, Professor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh.  "I believe I am particularly well qualified to evaluate both the importance of Dr. Shapiro's contributions to the development of the nuclear power industry (and related areas) and the importance of the contributions of nuclear energy to the economic, environmental and social well being of the United States."
05/18/2009 Francis Cotter, retired VP of Governmental Affairs, Westinghouse.  "Dr. Shapiro is a man of character who is distinguished not only by the high order of his technical accomplishments, but also by the ethical tenets he brought to all of it. I consider it an honor to recommend Dr. Shapiro for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. America needs more men like Dr. Shapiro."
05/23/2009 Peter D. Trooboff, Covington & Burling LLP "I have practiced law for 40 years as a partner at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, principally on international matters that have included hundreds of matters concerning U.S. controls on the exports of high-technology products and technical data. This work has drawn extensively on my interest in science because these assignments have focused on the export-control regimes of the Departments of State, Commerce, Energy and Treasury....I am pleased to support enthusiastically Dr. Shapiro's nomination for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation because of his unique and extraordinarily valuable contributions..."

Senator Arlen Specter asks that the NRC "issue a formal public statement confirming that he [constituent Zalman Shapiro] was not involved in any activities related to the diversion of uranium to Israel."

Information from Hadrian R. Katz of the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP "Despite his many accomplishments, Dr. Shapiro has for many years been the subject of repeated defamatory statements, and we respectfully request your assistance in clearing a great American scientist's good name. In particular, we would ask that this letter be forwarded to the Office of the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with your recommendation that the Commission issue a forrmal statement confirming once and for all that Dr. Shapiro did not participate in the unlawful diversion of nuclear material to the State of Israel."

11/02/2009 The NRC denies Specter's request.  "NRC does not have information that would allow it to unequivocally conclude that nuclear material was not diverted from the site, nor that all previously unaccounted for material was accounted for during the decommissioning of the site."


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