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Y-12 Infiltration a "Wake-Up Call": Chu

A high-profile July infiltration of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee offered an "important wake-up call" for all participants in U.S. nuclear arms operations, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Monday in remarks at an International Atomic Energy Agency forum.

The three members of the antiwar group Transform Now Plowshares on July 28 passed into the Oak Ridge nuclear arms facility's "Protected Area" -- the site's most heavily guarded section and home to atomic arms activities and bomb-grade uranium storage -- and reportedly dumped blood, put up placards and painted wording on the sides of structures prior to being detained.

Since the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010, Washington has cooperated with other governments to transfer roughly 1,433 pounds of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, a quantity of fissile material sufficient "to make dozens of nuclear weapons," the Knoxville News Sentinel quoted Chu as saying. "We are working with our partners in the international community to enhance security at facilities with sensitive nuclear material around the world," he added in remarks at the annual IAEA General Conference in Vienna, Austria.

"Even in the United States, we realize that we must always remain vigilant," he continued. "When protesters breached the security perimeter of one of our most important nuclear security facilities, we took swift and strong action to redouble security at all of our nuclear sites.

"While they never posed a threat to any sensitive materials, this unfortunate incident was an important wake-up call for our entire complex, and an important reminder that none of us can afford anything but the highest level of vigilance," he said.

Chu is expected by Sept. 28 to receive findings from an Energy Department assessment of Y-12 site protective procedures, a DOE insider told the newspaper on Wednesday. The probe appears set to wrap up this week, according to the source.

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