January 26, 2009 / 8:21 PM / 9 years ago

Worker guilty in bid to sell France nuke secrets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A nuclear industry worker who tried to sell uranium enrichment technology to NATO ally France pleaded guilty on Monday to illegally disclosing restricted information, the Justice Department said.

Roy Lynn Oakley, who worked at a facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that had formerly been used to produce highly enriched uranium, sought to sell equipment and information for $200,000 to representatives of the French government in 2006, according to his plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

But the French Embassy in Washington reported him to the FBI and he was arrested in 2007 after repeating the offer to an undercover agent in a sting operation.

“The French officials, in fact, did not pursue the purchase of these items,” the plea agreement said.

It said Oakley, a laborer whose job included escorting outsiders around the industrial complex, had been told in a security briefing he was given by his employer Bechtel Jacobs that “a number of nations including France” would be interested in buying parts and information stored at the complex.

The pieces of equipment he tried to sell were related to an advanced “gaseous diffusion” process for enriching uranium. Highly-enriched uranium is a fuel used in nuclear weapons.

The Oak Ridge facility was previously operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and is now run by environmental cleanup contractor Bechtel Jacobs.

Under the plea agreement, Oakley, 67, would be sentenced to a six-year prison term at a hearing scheduled for May 14.

Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen, editing by Anthony Boadle

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