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NUMEC North: Building 401

It’s one of the longest-running mysteries left behind by the Cold War, one that attracts new interest as Iran threatens to push the Middle East toward nuclear conflict: How did Israel so quickly develop its nuclear arsenal in the mid 1960s? Where did it find the necessary equipment and material?

Many have long suspected that part of the answer lies in Apollo Township, a small community outside of Pittsburgh, where a company called NUMEC (Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp.) had its headquarters. NUMEC and its president, Zalman M. Shapiro, have long been suspected of diverting highly enriched uranium to Israel during the mid 1960s, enabling Israel to leap-frog its neighbors into the community of nuclear-armed nations.

(There’s a lot to this story, which we’ll explore in greater detail soon, but meantime here’s a recently declassified GAO report, obtained by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, which lays out the basics.)

If NUMEC played a role in this mystery, then a potential piece of evidence is about to be destroyed at the Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston.

The Niagara Falls Storage Site is home to an underground containment structure (read: basements) that hosts more than 200,000 tons of highly radioactive waste dating to the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission, and added to during numerous, more recent attempts at consolidating these wastes into one location. It’s also home to Building 401, a structure slated for imminent demolition by the US Army Corp of Engineers. Building 401 has served numerous purposes since its construction during World War Two, when the federal government created the 7,500-acre Lake Ontario Ordnance Works.

The history of Building 401 is  nebulous, but we know this much: During the period in which the diversion of nuclear material to Israel is alleged to have taken place, Building 401 was occupied by NUMEC.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is prepared to spend $6.5 million in federal stimulus money to tear down Building 401. The Corps has said in the past that the structure is contaminated with residues from the production of TNT and, later, non-radioactive boron-10, as well as asbestos. In addition, the US Army Corps has claimed in recent years that radioactive materials have either been found buried under or have migrated beneath the building. This claim by the Corps seems to be one in a line of ever-changing histories of the former LOOW site. In the most recent development, never before revealed, the Corps has acknowledged finding radioactive material in the lockers used by workers employed in Building 401.

The Corps has never mentioned in previous years the need to demolish this long-standing structure. Only recently has the Corps argued that the building poses a “hazard to human health.”

Seems to us that before Building 401  is demolished, some effort ought to be made to establish the provenance of the radioactive materials found within it. Do the isotopes match those found at NUMEC’s headquarters in Apollo Township? Did Building 401 at Niagara play a role in this long-standing international mystery? Has Building 401, the northern incarnation of NUMEC, ever been investigated by the appropriate or interested authorities? Is there any interest at all?

Inquiring minds want to know. But the clock is ticking: If the building is razed before the question is asked, then we’ll never have an answer.

  • Roger

    What is the source of the information that NUMEC has a connection to Building 401?

    For further (and better) information on the NUMEC connection to Israel, you might want to look at

  • lou ricciuti

    Source information is from Mr. Zalman M. Shapiro and Dr. Leonard P. Pepkowitz (dec.) founders (president and vice president) of NUMEC – the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, Pittsburgh (Apollo), Pennsylvania, and Lewiston – Porter – Youngstown, New York, respectively.


    Thanks for the suggestion. Been subscribers to The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for more than a decade. However, not too sure how that $6.00 article linked above could be more exhaustive (“better”?) considering the reference material you’ve provided doesn’t mention the Niagara Falls – Lewiston – Porter, New York, NUMEC – Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation Northern facility location during the 1960s at the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Site (USACE-LOOW) – Niagara Falls Storage Site (DOE-NFSS).

    Thanks again for the thought though.

    Pepkowitz, L.P., Niagara County obituary – New York Times

    L. Ricciuti

  • New York Barn Preservation

    I think that this building is a historic barn from before this was the LOOW, and that it is eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places, as set out below

    National Register Criteria for Evaluation

    The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

    A. that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

    B. that are associated with the lives of significant persons in our past; or

    C. that embody the

    distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

    D. that have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

    Criteria Considerations: Ordinarily cemeteries, birthplaces, or graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature, and properties that have achieved significance within the last 50 years shall not be considered eligible for the National Register. However, such properties will qualify if they are integral parts of districts that do meet the criteria, or if they fall within the following categories:

    a. a religious property deriving primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or

    b. a building or structure removed from its original location but which is significant primarily for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event; or

    c. a birthplace or grave of a historical figure of outstanding importance when there is no other site or building directly associated with the individual’s productive life; or

    d. a cemetery that derives its primary significance either from the graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features, or from association with historic events; or

    e. a reconstructed building when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other building or structure with the same associations has survived; or

    f. a property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own historical significance; or

    g. a property achieving significance within the last 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.

  • lou ricciuti

    Thanks NYBP: Appreciate it.

    Unfortunately, Building 401 was specifically constructed to look like a farm barn from the air for military security reasons on behalf of the US Army and later, this served as a convenient function of camouflage for the Manhattan Engineer District – “Manhattan Project” (M.E.D.) and subsequent operations of a highly secure and top secret nature including those of NUMEC. Building 401 has walls made of concrete that are several feet thick. The structure was never used in any way as a “farm barn” in the conventional sense.

    Building 401 (and it’s specs.) appear on the original 1942 U.S. Army blueprint for the construction of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works (LOOW 7,500 acres – Northern Niagara County).

    I do agree that the building should be preserved for it’s historical significance as that relates to the development of the nuclear age. It should also be preserved for any investigation not yet conducted and, it may even fall under one or more of the above criteria for inclusion upon the National Historic Register.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful info.

    Best regards,

  • Lewiston resident

    Hey guys, is it true that this site is also contaminated with plutonium and other nasty radioactive stuff?

  • lou ricciuti


    Yes, that is the case where NUMEC was located on the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site.

    Lou Ricciuti

  • Kate

    No building can be listed on the National Register over the objections of its owner, unfortunately. The old Yankee Stadium certainly would have qualified as well. It may have even qualified as a National Historic Landmark, but it can’t be listed if the owner doesn’t want it to be. And certainly in this case, I’m sure the military would strongly object.

  • Lou should really write science fiction. I swear he’s the second coming of L Ron Hubbard. What next Lou? A Church based on your false science?

  • lou ricciuti

    The Ad Hominem Fallacy isn’t appropriate here and just unfortunate considering the subject matter. LR

    US Congress – General Accounting Office report. No fiction.

    Now called The Government Accountability Office
    “GAO Human Capital Reform Act (Pub.L. 108-271, July 7, 2004).”
    (It’s too bad that New York state doesn’t do some of the same).

    A copy of the GAO report regarding the investigation of Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation, NUMEC, is available here:

  • When there is noth else to say, attack the person !!

    Ad hominen: An argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case; a logical fallacy that involves a personal attack.

  • The statements are far from a personal attack Lou. Quit spinning the table.

    What we’re talking about is your lack of expertise in an area that takes a REAL education and REAL, HANDS ON experience to gain.

    So go ahead, take a 30 second gamma spectrum in an area that reads 40 uR/hr, wearing your dust mask, and enlighten us with all sorts of incredible knowledge about the “hazards” you find. You have too much time, not a clue, and someone’s deep pockets to perform “research”.

    Not personal professional critique of someone who has not a clue about radiation protection……………….

  • Subtract Hominem…..

  • lou ricciuti

    Right you are WTINTSATP! Ad Hominem Logical Fallacy – is a personal attack and tactic used when that’s all there is (they have) to their “debate.”

    Not too certain either of how any of the above would apply to the Apollo – Niagara affair nor, how an anonymous poster would have any idea as to my science/research work experience or financial background.. Sure seems personal as they’re not being courageous or sure enough of their own info to even sign their name.

    The GAO report about the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation is what it is — a past government report that is missing substantive information about NUMEC’s Northern operations and the possibility of the uranium being diverted from the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site located at the Lewiston – Porter – Youngstown, NY, location.

  • As always, does one’s identity somehow lend credence to their argument?

    Seems hardly worth it considering you’re FAMOUS for denying that anyone but you knows the “truth” or the “real story” Lou.

    The only silver lining in the black clouds you paint is that very few people believe anything you spews forth from your forked tongue anymore because time and time again, when asked to produce the documents you alleged to have read. And few people will likely read this blog anyway…….

  • Ooops!!! Better clarify before you jump all over me. Meant to say when asked to produce the documents you alleged to have read, you never follow through…….

    Take the Square Root of Hominem and multiply by 3.7E+10…….

  • When there is noth else to say, attack the person !!

    WTINTSATP please be more specific, what documents do you mean? I would like to read them too…..

  • I mean documents showing the alleged transfer of fissile material to Bldg 401 for alleged transfer to Israel. I mean documents alleging HUGE Plutonium plumes in the Niagara River. Lou’s famous for posting allegations, attending meetings and making allegations, and NEVER having any tangible PROOF to back up said allegations. He’s been asked to bring forward these alleged documents he finds all this conspiracy theory information in, but fails to do so EVERY TIME.

    So to sit there and claim anyone is attacking him personally is a farce. All that has been proposed is that he has NO CLUE when discussing these subjects because he has no proof, no real experience or education. And most of all what he has, is a Classic Styx song “Too much time on my hands”………

    So go ahead Lou. Tell everyone that pieces of slag are Uranium ore. Tell them aliens are slowly extracting all the Radium out of the WCS at the NFSS with a laser beam. Might as well really make some crazy allegations because nothing you propose is believable. And even if the NUMEC was transferring fissile material to Israel, last time I checked, they’re not our enemy…..

  • G00GLE’d: plutonium niagara

    About 114,000 results (0.23 seconds)

    IEER | Bad to the Bone: Letter to EPA
    Aug 1, 2005… in regards to the dangers of plutonium and related radionuclides in the …. Niagara Falls-Lewiston, New York “L, NY; Solar Sat Law …

    West Valley Plutonium and Americium-241 in Lake Ontario sediments …
    by SR Joshi – 1988 – Cited by 3 – Related articles
    WEST VALLEY PLUTONIUM AND AMERICIUM-241 IN THE NIAGARA RIVER. 163 with 238pu/239’24 Pu activity ratios and peak 239’a Pu activity (attributed to the 1963 …

    The Bomb That Fell On Niagara: The Sphere
    Sep 25, 2008 … The Plutonium he alleges is in the Niagara County Drinking water , as detailed in the NFG article dated 6-25-2005 . hurry up and wait . … – Cached – Similar

    Plutonium in Lake Ontario – Elsevier
    by SR Joshi – 1995 – Cited by 3 – Related articles
    Hamilton on the “l ….. lake 1[ Niagara River Ontario New York J ” West Valley Fig. 2. Map showing locations of sampling sites. separated plutonium … – Similar

    Inventing Niagara: Beauty, Power, and Lies – Google Books Result
    Ginger Strand – 2009 – Business & Economics – 352 pages
    Strand reveals the hidden history of America’s most iconic natural wonder, Niagara Falls, illuminating what it says about our history, our relationship with the ……

    Sedimentological Reconstruction of the Recent Pattern of Mercury …
    by RJ Breteler – 1984 – Cited by 16 – Related articles
    First, the earliest pulse of plutonium in our Niagara delta cores is characterized by a relatively high ratio of. 238Pu to 2393240Pu. …

    The Niagara File | Artvoice Daily
    The Niagara River Greenway Commission announced today that the public …. Plutonium, an extremely dangerous radioactive element created for the most part … – Cached

    Browsing science research at the federal level in Canada: history, … – Google Books Result
    Brian B. Wilks – 2004 – History – 638 pages
    Another group of highly toxic substances that have also been found in the Niagara River are radionuclides, which include plutonium and its atomic ……

    Leaking a Little More About Huntington’s Once Secret Uranium …
    Fifty years later (or more) the existence of plutonium, neptunium, … hafnium and zirconium) into a sewer running into the Niagara River. … – Cached

    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
    401 at the Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the …… Is Plutonium now considered a site contaminant on the NFSS? …

    Pu = plutonium

    First periodical reference to Niagara River – Lake Ontario plutonium appeared in Artvoice in 2001-2002.

    See also: Artvoice – The Cult Of Nuclearists, v9n19 (Week of Thursday, May 13)
    May 15, 2010 … The Cult of Nuclearists. by Geoff Kelly & Louis Ricciuti …
    More results from »
    MMM. The Cult of Nuclearists. ArtVoice and Palestine Telegraph.
    May 13, 2010 … The Cult of Nuclearists. ArtVoice and Palestine Telegraph. Eco Mann Sun, 30 May 2010 06:48:55 -0700. Don’t trust nuclear power and depleted ……com/msg00126.html

  • Any moron can google Plutonium and Niagara. Actually, one just did. Funny how three of the cut and pasted references are Lou’s own articles… Lame….

  • Dave V.

    “Any moron can google”

    Geoff & Lou,

    I guess not just anyone exactly can. Wonder why the above one didn’t.
    LOL & Hi-Larryous!!!!! Good going guys.
    Another interesting article. A home run and a faceplant2boot.

    Keep em coming.

  • Jon Syms

    now “google this/WTINTSATP” is participating in ad hominem attacks !!

    this is what is at LOOW: Radiation: uranium-238; uranium-235; uranium-234; thorium-230; radium-226; radon-222 per Chemical and Radiation Environmental Risk Management at the Crossroads: Case Studies Washington, DC: Environmental Law Institute, 2001.

  • lou ricciuti

    TRANSURANICS; (those isotopes above and “hotter” than Uranium I.E. above Element-92 on the Periodic Table), “hot particles,” “products of fission” (according to USACE telephone interview and documentation), Plutonium (at least two types–isotopes, more kinds have been detected at the Northern terminus of the Niagara River/ mouth of Lake Ontario, at Youngstown, NY), Cesium and Strontium.

    In addition, a couple of miles away from the LOOW site (down-gradient, downstream) and in the mouth of Lake Ontario, Americium 241 has been detected which may be associated with the LOOW/NFSS, and or historic discharges from the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site.

    See above links.

    Lou R.