you're reading...

Y12 Fence Cut by Plowshares Activists Still Open Months Later

Ongoing Security Vulnerability at Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex Revealed

Four and a half months after Sister Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed, and Michael Walli enter facility, hole in perimeter fence still not repaired

Second photo of actual entry point

Actual entry point, photo by OREPA, December 17, 2012

Actual entry point, photo by OREPA, December 17, 2012

Second photo of actual entry point, photo by OREPA

"Entry point" shown to defense counsel on December 11, 2012 (photo courtesy of US Government)

“Entry point” shown to defense counsel on December 11, 2012 (photo courtesy of US Government)

Members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance today releases photos showing that, four and a half months after the July 28, 2012, incursion by the Transform Now Plowshares peace activists, the person-sized hole they made in the perimeter fence at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN, has not yet been repaired.

On Tuesday, December 11, 2012, lawyers for the defense were taken on a tour of the Y12 facility to view firsthand the location of the entrance and subsequent activities of the peace activists who entered the Y12 facility to call attention to the criminality of ongoing nuclear weapons production activities at Y12, activities which contradict the legal obligation of the United States, codified in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to pursue nuclear disarmament.

The lawyers were shown a spot in the perimeter fence, marked with three carabiners from which red ribbons were hung, and a trail leading up the ridge through the woods, also marked with red plastic ribbon.

On Monday, December 17, 2012, two OREPA members traveled to the Y12 site and approached the perimeter fence and, after walking for fifteen minutes, came to the actual point of entry where the chain link fence was open from the ground to a point about four feet high. A white plastic cable tie hung conspicuously from the fence; it was a tie the peace activists had attempted to use to close the whole behind them.

On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, OREPA’s coordinator met with counsel for the defense to compare notes and confirmed that 1) the point of access identified by the government was not, in fact, the entry point of the Plowshares activists; and 2) the entry point was not yet repaired and the breach in the fence remained.

Francis Lloyd, counsel for Sister Megan Rice, immediately drafted a letter to be delivered to the prosecution and the court to alert them to the ongoing vunerability.

“The existence of this breach is significant for two reasons,” said OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison. “First, of course, we should not have large holes in the fence that establishes the first line of defense for our nuclear weapons facilities. The breach was clearly evident from a distance of twenty yards or more; it says to me that with all the post July 28 security activity, and despite the assurances given to Congress and others, no one had taken the simple step of walking the entire perimeter fence to verify its integrity.”

“But a greater concern is what this says about the capacity of B&W Y12 and the National Nuclear Security Administration to do their job,” Hutchison continued. “Since July 28, the public has heard assurances from the Secretary of Energy on down that the Plowshares action was a wake-up call, that security lapses were intolerable, that attention to detail was paramount, that all steps were being taken to address the lessons learned—and yet the hole in the fence had not been discovered, nor had it been repaired. There is no excuse. None.

“The complete and utter failure of B&W Y12 to complete this simple, fundamental task, and the complete and utter failure of NNSA to make sure its contractor had completed this simple, fundamental task demonstrate a level of managerial incompetence that simply can not be allowed to continue at our nuclear weapons facilities. The problem is not with individuals making poor decisions, the problem is cultural. And to those who say it can be fixed, I ask, ‘What possible incentive could there be, short of an actual terrorist attack, that would provide greater motivation for B&W Y12 and NNSA to demonstrate their competence than the July 28 incursion?’”

On September 12, 2012, OREPA called for the abolition of the NNSA. “Today, we repeat that call,” said Hutchison. “The taxpayers and the nation can not afford to pay for incompetence. We get no value added from the NNSA’s additional layer of oversight; we get value subtracted. There is less accountability, and that leads to less security. You might get away with that in an office building somewhere, but we’re talking about an active nuclear weapons production complex.”

What the officials have said: DOE, NNSA and B&W Y12 statements since July 28

NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino, December 5, 2012

“We also have been working to make the structural and cultural changes required to ensure the security of this facility and throughout our entire complex.

“While we’re confident that these aggressive actions have enhanced security at Y-12, we will leave no stone unturned to find out what went wrong and will take any step necessary to ensure security at this site and across our enterprise.

“The second key point here is related to the first, and that is to develop a questioning attitude and get into the details. A strong organization — one committed to continuous improvement — needs to develop a workforce that promotes a degree of skepticism, a questioning attitude and a desire to get into the details…Asking for details about a situation, a program or an event sends the exact opposite message. It tells that individual and others that you think their work is important. And because of that, you want to take the time to understand their work. It also gives them an opportunity to show you how much they know. It has the added benefit of your being able to find areas where additional attention may be needed. And if during your session of questioning, your instincts tell you that there are issues that may require further investigation, then trust your instincts.”


B&W President and General Manager Chuck Spencer, September 12, 2012

“The July 28 event brought to light gaps in our maintenance and security operations, and we are using it as a catalyst for a comprehensive and objective examination of all our operations. As a result, a series of extent-of-condition reviews are ongoing throughout Y‑12. Specific to our show cause response, we believe we have demonstrated a compelling case for NNSA to continue our contract.

“Over the course of the past six weeks, B&W Y‑12 has implemented significant corrective actions. All critical security system elements have been restored to service; security cameras have been repaired, adjusted and performance tested; and security-related maintenance must now be performed on critical system elements within 24 hours of an identified problem. The WSI-Oak Ridge Protective Force has been extensively retrained and performance tested. The testing was also integrated with security systems performance testing. Through multiple corrective measures, daily site-wide alarms have been significantly reduced and Protective Force alarm responses have improved.

“B&W Y‑12 has the commitment and capability to execute its contractual responsibilities and fulfill its mission at the highest level of performance. We will continue our path forward for improvements, and will embed and make them long lasting at Y‑12.”

(Y-12 National Security Complex website: http://www.y12.doe.gov/news/release.php?id=303)


Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, Congressional Testimony, September 13, 2012

This incursion and the poor response to it demonstrated a deeply flawed execution of security procedures at Y-12. In response to the incident, we acted swiftly to identify and address the problems it revealed.

These actions — either directly or through the contract for the site — included the following immediate steps to improve security:

• The former head of security from Pantex moved to Y-12 to lead the effort to reform the security culture at the site

• Security functions at the Y-12 site have been brought into the M&O contract to ensure continuity of operations, and moving toward an integrated model going forward;

• The Chief of Defense Nuclear Security for NNSA has been reassigned pending the outcome of a review;

• Six of the top contractor executives responsible for security at the Y-12 site have been removed — including the president and acting president of Wackenhut’s Oak Ridge Division;

• The leadership of the guard force has been removed, and the guards involved in this incident have been removed or reassigned;

• The Plant Manager and Chief Operating Officer retired 12 days after the incident;

• Nuclear operations at the site were suspended until re-training and other modifications mentioned above were completed;

• The entire site workforce was required to undergo additional security training;

• Cameras have been repaired and tested, guard patrols increased, security policies have 
been strengthened, and all personnel have been retrained on security procedures;

• The number of false and nuisance alarms have been greatly reduced, to provide more confidence in the intrusion detection system;

• The Department’s Chief of Health, Safety and Security was directed to deploy a team to Y- 12 in support of NNSA’s efforts;

• Site managers at all DOE facilities with nuclear material were directed to provide their written assurance that all nuclear facilities are in full compliance with Department security policies and directives, as well as internal policies established at the site level;

• A formal “Show Cause Letter” was issued to the contractor that covers the entire scope of operations at Y-12, including security. This is the first step toward potentially terminating the contracts for both and the site contractor and its security subcontractor. Past performance, including deficiencies and terminations, will be considered in the awarding of future contracts;

• A senior federal official was deployed to ensure oversight over contractor security operations;

• An assessment was initiated led by Brigadier General Sandra Finan to review the oversight model and security organizational structure at NNSA headquarters;

• An independent HSS inspection of Y-12 was ordered; and

• HSS was directed to lead near-term assessments of all Category I sites to identify any systemic issues, enhancing Independent Oversight performance testing program to incorporate no-notice or short notice security testing, and conducting comprehensive Independent Oversight security inspections at all Category I sites over the next 12 months, using the enhanced program of performance testing.

• The series of personnel and management changes I have just described were made to provide the highest level of security at the site and across the DOE complex. To manage this transition, we have brought some of the best security experts from our enterprise to Y-12 to act quickly to redress the security shortcomings at the site. We are also working to make the structural and cultural changes required to appropriately secure this facility. The Secretary and I intend to send a clear message: lapses in security will not be tolerated. We will leave no stone unturned to find out what went wrong and will take the steps necessary to provide effective security at this site and across our enterprise.

In conclusion, the security of our Nation’s nuclear material is a central responsibility of the Department. We must always remain vigilant against error and complacency and have zero tolerance for security breaches at our Nation’s most sensitive nuclear facilities. The incident at Y-12 was unacceptable, and it served as an important wake-up call for our entire complex. As a result, NNSA will use this event to review the security at all of our NNSA sites. The Department is taking aggressive actions to ensure the reliability of our nuclear security programs, and will continue to do so.


DOE Inspector General Friedman, Congressional hearings, September 12, 2012

Especially important in light of the purpose of today’s hearing, contractor governance and Federal oversight failed to identify and correct early indicators of the breakdowns. These issues directly contributed to an atmosphere in which trespassers could gain access to the protected security area directly adjacent to one of the Nation’s most critically important and highly secured weapons-related facilities (Inquiry into the Security Breach at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Y-12 National Security Complex, DOE/IG-0868, available at: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/IG- 0868_0.pdf).


(Note: On December 20, 2012, a federal spokesperson said the hole had been located and repaired. http://blogs.knoxnews.com/munger/2012/12/the-cut-in-the-fence-has-been.html)


One thought on “Y12 Fence Cut by Plowshares Activists Still Open Months Later

  1. the company will go to great lengths to provide “security” protecting the most insecure, dangerous materials and not recognize the irony?!?
    give me a brake
    like gun pushers will ask for more guns in school- these folks will push weapons to the world
    responsible americans (like responsible gun owners) will protest facilities like these and will support the protestors
    these protestors took, as the Quakers say, the “risks of peace”

    Posted by david eberhardt | December 20, 2012, 11:22 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Support Transform Now Plowshares

Contributions for jail support for the Transform Now Plowshares activists are welcome and needed! You can mail checks to:

Catholic Worker
PO Box 29179
Washington DC 20017

please mark your check for "Transform Now Plowshares" in the memo line.

%d bloggers like this: