WSI reassigns Y-12 security director after test questions found in patrol vehicle

Note: This story was updated at 1:49 p.m. Sept. 6.

The new director of the protective force at the Y-12 National Security Complex has been reassigned after a federal inspector allegedly found papers in a patrol vehicle that included answers to a test scheduled to be given to guards as part of an investigation following an unprecedented July 28 security breach.

A U.S. Department of Energy official said the stack of papers found last week also included a copy of a test designed to quiz a random sample of a few dozen guards on policies and procedures, as well as a “post check” interview sheet. The “post checks” question security officers on procedures and performance tests, such as deploying gas masks. The papers were not supposed to be shared, said the DOE official, speaking on background.

“That’s clearly something that we’ve never seen before,” said Bill Eckroade, principal deputy chief for mission support operations in DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Security, or HSS.  “It gave us great concern.

“They were in a place that was unexpected and undesirable. They may have been used inappropriately.”

Security contractor WSI Oak Ridge confirmed Wednesday that it is investigating the Aug. 29 incident.

“The investigation is under way to determine if this act was intended to advantage participants, or if it was an unintentional act as part of overall knowledge testing for the security police officers,” said the statement from Courtney Russell Henry, WSI Oak Ridge public affairs manager.

She said John Garrity, who replaced Gary Brandon as director of the Y-12 Protective Force about a month ago, after the July security breach, has been “administratively re-assigned” during the investigation. In the meantime, Y-12 Protective Force chief Bobby Mullins is the acting director, Henry said.

The DOE official said the test had been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 30, but it was suspended. Federal officials are redoing test materials and selecting new staff members to quiz when an HSS team returns to Oak Ridge next week.

Federal inspectors had spent about two days and nights doing post checks before the Aug. 29 incident, the official said. Those checks will now have to be re-done.

The HSS inspection, one of several investigations at Y-12 after the July 28 intrusion by three anti-nuclear weapons activists, was ordered by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. An HSS team deployed to Oak Ridge on Aug. 27, returned to Washington, D.C., this week, and will be back in Oak Ridge on Monday for two weeks before issuing a report to Chu on Sept. 28.

Henry said it is premature to speculate on potential outcomes.

“We appreciate the cooperation from B&W, NNSA, and DOE as we gather the vital information,” she said. “With over 50 continuous years of support to DOE, WSI recognizes the importance of basic test integrity, and we stand ready to fully support the continuation of the revised material necessary to restart and conclude the HSS inspection.”

The WSI statement on Wednesday was in response to a Tuesday press release from B&W Y-12, the plant’s management and operating contractor. In that release, B&W Y-12 said it had notified WSI on Aug. 31 of a potential contract termination “for default” if the company didn’t take action to address the recent security concerns. Henry said WSI has 16 days to respond.

B&W Y-12 had already given WSI a “show cause” notice, requiring the security contractor to explain its actions during the July intrusion by the three protesters, Greg Boertje-Obed, Megan Rice, and Michael R. Walli.

The Aug. 11 show cause notice given to WSI came one day after B&W Y-12 received its own “show cause” notice, this one from the National Nuclear Security Administration. That notice gave B&W Y-12 30 days to explain why its contract shouldn’t be terminated.

B&W Y-12 is expected to respond by Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, the three protesters, who spray-painted slogans and splashed human blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored, have been charged with property destruction, property depredation, and trespassing. They face an Oct. 10 trial in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, although they have asked for a delay.

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  • Sam

    The musical chairs game continues. Aren’t they just about out of folks to “re-assign”? Pull the plug on WSI, it’s long overdue.

  • tbonefrog

    Maybe I’m just paranoid but I don’t think so. Doesn’t it seem like it’s a good idea to get a contingent of Marines in there while we figure out what’s wrong with the security? The Y-12 response id due on Sep. 10? Somehow that date or the day after sounds eerily familiar to me. Mr. Eckroade needs to call in some backup until the security situation is stable out there, if ever. Even if you believe in a small government, reducing security at the nuclear arsenal until it is nonexistent doesn’t sound like a smart way to go.

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