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Nuclear-Arms Security Concerns Persist After Y-12 Break-In

By Diane Barnes

Global Security Newswire

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. "Safeguards and security" remain a "significant management challenge" for the Energy Department following a high-profile 2012 break-in at the site, the agency inspector general said in a new report (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo). The Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. "Safeguards and security" remain a "significant management challenge" for the Energy Department following a high-profile 2012 break-in at the site, the agency inspector general said in a new report (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo).

WASHINGTON -- More than a year after three peace activists broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, "safeguards and security" continue to pose a "significant management challenge" for the Energy Department, the agency's inspector general said in a report issued last week.

The official auditor referred in the new document to a number of unspecified "policy issues" that have not been resolved since the July 2012 break-in at the nuclear-warhead materials facility. The incident "highlighted the need for a robust security apparatus with effective federal oversight," according to the IG report.

The Nov. 26 assessment echoes concerns that the inspector general flagged about security operations last year, following the incident in which three members of "Transform Now Plowshares" infiltrated the Y-12 compound and staged a nonviolent protest.

The intruders, who ranged between 57 and 82 in age at the time of the break-in, cut through multiple fences with wire-cutters to reach the exterior of the plant's bomb-grade uranium storehouse. The three activists were found guilty in May of interfering with national security and damaging government property, and they remain in custody ahead of sentencing hearings scheduled for next month.

The federal response to the incident could exceed $100 million, according to a July report by the Knoxville News Sentinel. The effort has included employee retraining and follow-up investigations that have uncovered other security concerns.

Meanwhile, a new private operator appears poised to assume responsibility for overseeing the Y-12 site.

The IG report says the department's key areas of difficulty in fiscal 2014 are "largely consistent" with activities of concern from past budget cycles, even though last year's break-in led to safeguards and security being "elevated to the management challenges list."

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