Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Y-12 Personnel Face Punishment After Break-In
A Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex security officer was terminated and additional personnel penalized after peace activists infiltrated the Tennessee nuclear arms facility late last month, the company WSI-Oak Ridge said in a Sunday report by the Knoxville News Sentinel.
"One (security police officer) has been terminated and appropriate disciplinary action has been taken with the additional individuals," Courtney Henry, a spokeswoman for the Y-12 security provider, stated via e-mail. The company has neither identified the affected personnel nor elaborated on moves against them.
The 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 added painted wording to the sides of structures prior to their detention.
Security personnel alerted to the infiltration took an unacceptably long time to react, and then initially did not act as necessary to take charge of the activists, the National Nuclear Security Administration has indicated. The semiautonomous Energy Department organization has placed its business arrangement with WSI-Oak Ridge under the auspices of the firm that manages Y-12 as a means of eliminating any ambiguities in the site's management hierarchy for defensive activities.
Other measures taken after the intrusion included the removal of three defensive personnel from their full assignments, WSI-Oak Ridge indicated previously. Whether the more recently announced moves affected three staffers or a larger quantity of workers was initially uncertain.
The trespassers' peaceful aims have prevented their infiltration of the plant from being considered with sufficient gravity, the Associated Press on Saturday quoted one atomic protection specialist as saying.
"We were lucky in that regard that it was the nun and her cohorts, rather than a serious terrorist outfit," said Peter Stockton, a senior investigator with the Project On Government Oversight who served as a top DOE security adviser during the Clinton administration.
To Stockton's knowledge, last month's event was the "only serious penetration of a plant" in his atomic protection career of more than three decades.
"It is simply (expletive) unbelievable," the expert said.
Entering the plant's Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility without authorization would still pose a significant challenge, Harvard University nuclear weapons expert Matthew Bunn said, citing his own examination of the bomb-grade uranium holding facility. The suspects placed blood and written messages on the building's exterior, according to earlier reporting.
Government personnel said the structure is intended to survive a land-based assault. It is also constructed to handle an airplane collision, 7.7 magnitude ground tremors and air currents of 200 mph, according to AP.
Nuclear agency spokesman Steven Wyatt said the plant's defensive staff "is deployed so that any serious attempt to attack the facility would be repulsed well in advance of any credible threat."
The Tennessee facility does not anticipate the break-in preventing it from achieving its fiscal 2012 nuclear-weapon disassembly and maintenance objectives, the News Sentinel quoted Wyatt as saying. The atomic site restarted its industrial efforts last Wednesday, ending a halt of two and a half-weeks.
"At this point, Y-12 has already met many of its production commitments for this [fiscal] year," the spokesman stated. The next fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.
"For those remaining commitments still in production, plans are in place that would accomplish all by the end of the year. We will continue to assess impacts of the stand down, but we cannot provide any further details at this time," he said.
The plant is now taking apart B-61, B-53 and B-83 nuclear gravity bombs, according to the official. He said disassembly of a fourth B-61 type would begin in the near future, following comparable efforts for three other variants so far in 2012.
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