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Y-12 Operator Cuts Ties With Protection Firm

A security patrol officer receives machine-gun training in 2004 at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The Y-12 plant's contract operator on Friday said it would cut business ties with the firm responsible for providing security at the site (AP Photo/Wade Payne). A security patrol officer receives machine-gun training in 2004 at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The Y-12 plant's contract operator on Friday said it would cut business ties with the firm responsible for providing security at the site (AP Photo/Wade Payne).

The private operator of the Y-12 National Security Complex on Friday said it would end business with a protective force subcontractor following a widely publicized July infiltration of the Tennessee nuclear arms facility, Reuters reported.

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration earlier on Friday urged contract operator Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 to take the action against WSI-Oak Ridge, a division of G4S Government Solutions. The semiautonomous Energy Department office had "grave concerns" over the administration of Y-12 plant defensive activities by the two organizations, according to an NNSA communication to B&W Y-12 head Charles Spencer.

Spencer's company should cooperate with the atomic agency in assuming responsibility for defending the site, according to the document.

A release by B&W Y-12 says the site operator would start assuming protection responsibilities on Monday "in an orderly manner that ensures that safe and secure operations remain the highest priority," the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Friday.

"B&W Y-12 will honor the collective bargaining agreements with union employees," the document adds. "B&W Y-12 will also conduct an evaluation and hiring process for non-union WSI-Oak Ridge employees who provide supervision and support to the security police officers at Y-12. WSI Oak Ridge employees at Y-12 and the Central Training Facility should continue coming to work as scheduled."

NNSA spokesman Joshua McConaha said the action against the subcontractor "comes after the top leadership of WSI at Y-12 were removed and are no longer welcome at [Energy Department] sites, and the officers associated with the incident were fired, demoted or suspended without pay," the newspaper reported on Saturday.

Three members of the antiwar group Transform Now Plowshares on July 28 passed into Y-12's "Protected Area" -- the plant'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 to the sides of structures. They were subsequently detained.

"The security of our nation's nuclear material is the department's most important responsibility, and we have no tolerance for federal or contractor personnel who cannot or will not do their jobs," Reuters quoted McConaha as saying. The official noted Energy Secretary Steven Chu had referred to the July event as a "wake-up call" for all participants in U.S. nuclear-weapon operations.

Separately, the National Nuclear Security Administration saw shortcomings in B&W Y-12's formal defense of its management of the plant, McConaha indicated in comments reported by the News Sentinel. The atomic agency in August ordered the firm to submit within 30 days a formal argument for why it should be allowed to continue operating the Y-12 site.

"Discussions with B&W are ongoing. However, it was clear that we did not need to wait for that process to wrap up before taking action regarding WSI," the spokesman said.

McConaha said DOE and NNSA defensive procedure assessments are under way "at every level -- from the contractor, to the federal management up the chain, to the security model itself."

"The final review in that series will begin shortly when (Energy Secretary Steven Chu) asks observers outside the department to analyze the current model for protection of nuclear materials and explore additional options for protecting these sites," he said.

Chu last week received findings from a comprehensive probe into the July incident by the Energy Department's Health, Safety and Security Office. The undisclosed information "reinforced the seriousness of the incident and will help improve security at Y-12 and across the department," McConaha said.

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