Nuclear operations resume at Y-12 under greater federal oversight

After a two-week “stand down,” nuclear operations resumed Wednesday at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

But there will now be more federal oversight of contractor operations, a National Nuclear Security Administration press release said. B&W Y-12 operates Y-12 for the NNSA.

“The authorization to resume operations was made possible through the completion of numerous improvements in security at Y-12 and completion of security training,” the press release said.

B&W Y-12, the plant’s management and operating contractor, ordered a temporary security stand down on Aug. 1 as a result of an internal review of Y-12 security operations following an unprecedented security breach on July 28. Early that Saturday morning, three anti-nuclear weapons activists allegedly sneaked into the plant, cut through three fences with bolt cutters, and entered a high-security Protected Area before splashing human blood and spray-painting slogans on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

During the security stand down following that highly publicized intrusion, all special nuclear materials at Y-12 were moved to vault-type facilities. The NNSA, a separate agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, said it “fully supported” that action.

The NNSA authorized the resumption of nuclear operations on Wednesday.

The agency said all staff members at Y-12 have undergone more security training since Aug. 1 to ensure compliance with all site rules. In addition, members of the Y-12 protective force, or security, staff have received more tactical and security-related training.

The agency also pointed out that the contract with security company WSI Oak Ridge is now a subcontract under B&W Y-12. It used to be a prime contract under the NNSA.

“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 NNSA said.

The agency said other reviews of security operations are either under way or scheduled to begin this month.

Y-12 is the nation’s main production facility for many nuclear weapons components, and the 811-acre plant, built during World War II to enrich uranium for the world’s first atomic bombs, is responsible for uranium storage, processing, and manufacturing operations.

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