Just after dawn on a cool morning in September 2008, two FBI agents and a police officer walked into the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas and took the security elevator up to the twenty-third floor, where they knocked on the door of a high-roller haven known as the Grand Lakeview Suite. A Minnesota businessman named Tom Petters answered wrapped in a bathrobe. After a moment’s hesitation, he invited them in.
In the fall of 2008, EnergySolutions Foundation, the charitable arm of one of the world’s largest nuclear-waste processors, began approaching nuclear utilities with an offer. Guided by a team of science teachers and industry p.r. staffers, the organization had developed a trove of materials on nuclear power for use in sixth-through-twelfth-grade classes.
Last August, workers at Japan’s now infamous Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant loaded the first batch of mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, into one of their reactors. The event went largely unnoticed in the United States; but in Japan it was deeply controversial. Unlike traditional nuclear fuel, which is pure uranium, MOX is a far more dangerous blend of both uranium and plutonium (the latter is among the most carcinogenic substances on Earth).