Y-12 Receives Permission to Restart Atomic Activities

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee has received federal authorization to restart atomic activities halted after antiwar advocates broke into the nuclear weapons facility in July (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo).
The Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee has received federal authorization to restart atomic activities halted after antiwar advocates broke into the nuclear weapons facility in July (U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration photo).

The Obama administration on Wednesday opened the door for the Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex to resume atomic operations suspended after peace activists infiltrated the Tennessee nuclear arms facility late last month, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (see GSN, Aug .15).

The site would relaunch uranium operations, disassembly of aging bomb components and other initiatives over a period of uncertain duration, according to the newspaper.

A comprehensive halt in Y-12 nuclear activities followed the July 28 unauthorized entry at the plant by the members of the antiwar group Transform Now Plowshares (see GSN, Aug. 2). The intruders 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 apprehension.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Steven Wyatt said the operations would not unfold in a routine fashion at the site in Oak Ridge.

"It won’t be normal at all,” Wyatt said. Defensive monitoring would receive a substantial boost, he said, with more U.S. officials present at the facility to conduct assessments of actions and preparatory efforts carried out by its hired operator.

“The authorization to resume operations was made possible through the completion of numerous improvements in security at Y-12 and completion of security training," Wyatt's agency said in prepared comments.

The spokesman said the relaunch is unrelated to a recent NNSA call for contractor B&W Y-12 to formally defend within 30 days its continued role as the site's operator (see GSN, Aug. 14; Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel I, Aug. 15).

Wyatt said Y-12 video monitoring systems reported to have been inactive during the July incident "have been fixed and checked and are 100 percent operable," the newspaper reported (Frank Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel II, Aug. 15).

Nuclear agency staffers from Washington and separate locations have traveled to Oak Ridge, Wyatt added, without naming the particular officials or their facilities of origin. A high-level government insider is slated to manage protective efforts by contractors at Y-12, according to the semiautonomous Energy Department agency; the particular person has so far gone unidentified (Munger, Knoxville News Sentinel I).

Separately, the federal atomic office has placed its business arrangement with the Y-12 protection firm WSI-Oak Ridge under the auspices of site operator B&W Y-12, Oak Ridge Today reported. “This action was taken to strengthen the chain of command, to reduce layers of management and to improve the span of control between contractor management and members of the Y-12 Proforce,” the agency stated, referring to site protective staff (John Huotari, Oak Ridge Today, Aug. 15).

August 16, 2012
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The Obama administration on Wednesday opened the door for the Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex to resume atomic operations suspended after peace activists infiltrated the Tennessee nuclear arms facility late last month, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

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