Y-12 Break-In Prompts Overhaul of Protective Staff

The Obama administration has responded to a break-in late last month and other protection shortfalls at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee by shifting critical site supervisors and temporarily relieving from duty certain defensive personnel, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Friday (see GSN, Aug. 3).

A reported July 28 infiltration by three peace activists of the Y-12 section that houses atomic arms activities and bomb-grade uranium storage "was an unacceptable and deeply troubling breach,"  Chu said in remarks reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel. He added the development "was not consistent with the level of professionalism and expertise we expect from our guard force and all of those federal employees and contractors responsible for security across the [Energy Department] complex."

"Earlier this week we decided to halt nuclear operations at the site, the guards involved in this incident were suspended, the general manager of the contractor protective force [WSI-Oak Ridge General Manager Lee Brooks] and two members of his leadership team were removed from their positions and all employees at the site are undergoing additional security training," Chu stated. "The department has no tolerance for security breaches at any of our sites, and I am committed to ensuring that those responsible will be held accountable."

Another "relevant federal official at the site has been temporarily reassigned, pending the outcome of the investigation," the DOE chief said.

In an effort to harden the facility against potential intruders, Chu said his department is consulting with Rodney Johnson, a one-time Y-12 protection chief now serving as deputy leader of the Pantex Plant in Texas. An autonomous Energy probe is also set to take place under Glenn Podonsky, the department's chief health, safety and security officer, the release states.

"I am committed to ensuring that we learn the appropriate lessons from this incident and apply those lessons across our complex. I have directed [the National Nuclear Security Administration] and [the department's Health, Safety and Security Office] to assess security at all of our sensitive sites to ensure we have the right security policies in place so all nuclear material remains safe and secure," Chu stated. "Furthermore, the department will further strengthen its program to continue independently testing our guard force to ensure they are performing their security function fully and completely" (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel I, Aug. 3).

National Nuclear Security Administration chief Thomas D'Agostino on Saturday traveled to the Y-12 site to examine conditions. The semiautonomous Energy Department agency oversees Y-12 and other branches of the U.S. nuclear arms complex  (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel II, Aug. 4).

A federal judge has provisionally relieved from detention two of the three people charged in the intrusion: 82-year-old nun Megan Rice and 63-year-old Michael Walli, the News Sentinel reported on Friday. The third suspect -- 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed -- stayed in confinement (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel III, Aug. 3).

Rice and Walli were required to relinquish travel documents, allow oversight by authorities and refrain from breaching U.S. government sites (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel IV, Aug. 3).

August 6, 2012
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The Obama administration has responded to a break-in late last month and other protection shortfalls at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee by shifting critical site supervisors and temporarily relieving from duty certain defensive personnel, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Friday.

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