NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Department of Energy's inspector general blamed significant security failures for an unprecedented intrusion into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, including broken detection equipment, a poor response from guards and insufficient federal oversight of private contractors running the complex.
During the early morning hours of July 28, three peace protesters, including an 82-year-old Roman Catholic nun, cut through three fences surrounding the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at Y-12 and defaced the building with blood and spray paint.
Inspector General Gregory Friedman called the intrusion a "wake-up" call to correct a number of security and oversight problems and noted the three gained access to an area "directly adjacent to one of the nation's most critically important and highly security weapons-related facilities." The building is the nation's storehouse for uranium used in nuclear warheads.
The inspector general's report faulted federal officials under the National Nuclear Security Administration and the contractors they used to operate the facility and provide security personnel. The Y-12 site is managed by Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 LLC, which does security planning. WSI-OR., Inc., formerly Wackenhut, provides the personnel that make up the Y-12 security forces.
NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said in a response to the IG report said the agency would implement all the recommendations in the report and it was conducting a complex-wide assessment of physical security.
Specifically, the inspector general's report identified "troubling displays of ineptitude" in the security force's response to the breech and the alarms tripped when the protesters cut through the fences.
The first security officer to arrive on the scene told the inspector general that he did not notice the trespassers until they approached his vehicle and "surrendered," the report states. The report noted that officer did not secure the area, did not draw his weapon on the trespassers and allowed them to roam about and retrieve items from their backpacks.
Security officers who heard the protesters beating on the walls of the building with a hammer incorrectly assumed they were construction workers.
Both federal officials and contractors hired to manage the site were also aware of a substantial backlog of broken security equipment, including a security camera that had been out of service for six months. The report also said the trespassers would have been detected immediately if some of the broken equipment had been functioning. Without it, the protesters hiked more than half a mile onto the property and spent a couple of hours there before a security guard confronted them.
Federal officials told the inspector general that the NNSA's contractor system prevented them from taking action to prompt the contractor to perform the needed repairs to security equipment. The contractor complained that funding pressures had negatively affected security controls at Y-12, the report said.
"We perceived there to be a level of confidence in the quality of the Y-12 security apparatus that was unjustified," the inspector general noted.
In the weeks following the intrusion, new leadership was brought in by the security force contractor and the general manager of the plant was removed from his position.
The NNSA also issued a show cause notice to Babcock &Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 LLC, which orders them to explain why their contract should not be nullified.
The protesters, Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed, are charged with illegally entering the Y-12 complex and defacing the building. They face up to 16 years in prison if convicted. They are seeking to delay a trial set to begin Oct. 10.
View the Inspector General's report online at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/IG-0868_0.pdf