U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said guards involved in an unprecedented security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex last week have been suspended, and the general manager of the contractor protective force has been removed.
Two members of the general manager’s leadership team have also been removed from their positions, Chu said in a statement.
In addition, a federal official at the site has been temporarily reassigned, pending the outcome of the investigation into the July 28 intrusion into the high-security Protected Area on the west end of Y-12 by three anti-nuclear weapons activists, Chu said.
“The Department has no tolerance for security breaches at any of our sites, and I am committed to ensuring that those responsible will be held accountable,” Chu said.
Chu did not name the suspended guards or the employees who have been removed or reassigned.
Chu called the incident “unacceptable and deeply troubling.”
The activists—Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli—allegedly cut through four fences at Y-12 before dawn on Saturday, July 28, entered the Protected Area, and spray-painted, splashed human blood, and hung banners on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, or HEUMF, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.
“Safety and security at the sites where nuclear materials are stored is of the utmost importance,” Chu said. “This incident was not consistent with the level of professionalism and expertise we expect from our guard force and all of those federal employees and contractors responsible for security across the DOE complex.”
He said all employees at Y-12 are undergoing more security training.
Nuclear operations have been temporarily halted at the 811-acre plant, the nation’s production facility for many nuclear weapons components.
To help improve security at Y-12, the U.S. Department of Energy has brought in Gen. Rodney Johnson, deputy manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Pantex site and a former head of security, Chu said.
In addition, Glenn Podonsky, DOE’s chief of health, safety, and security, has sent a team to Y-12 that will support NNSA’s efforts and conduct a separate independent investigation, Chu said.
The NNSA is a separately organized agency within DOE. A contractor operates Y-12 for the NNSA.
“I am committed to ensuring that we learn the appropriate lessons from this incident and apply those lessons across our complex,” Chu said. “I have directed NNSA and HSS to assess security at all of our sensitive sites to ensure we have the right security policies in place so all nuclear material remains safe and secure.
“Furthermore, the department will further strengthen its program to continue independently testing our guard force to ensure they are performing their security function fully and completely.”