Six weeks after an unprecedented security breach, B&W Y-12 said in a press release Wednesday that is has demonstrated a compelling case to federal officials to let it keep managing and operating the Y-12 National Security Complex.
“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,” said B&W Y-12 President and General Manager Chuck Spencer.
During the July 28 security breach, three unarmed anti-nuclear weapons activists allegedly sneaked into Y-12, evaded guards, cut fences, penetrated a high-security area, and spray-painted slogans and splashed human blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.
About two weeks later, the National Nuclear Security Administration sent a show cause letter to B&W Y-12, giving the company 30 days to explain why its contract should not be terminated. B&W Y-12 submitted a response on Monday.
Spencer said the response is not publicly available due to sensitivities related to security.
In its press release, the company said it gathered input from WSI-Oak Ridge, which was operating under a separate security contract with the NNSA on July 28. However, WSI Oak Ridge is now a subcontractor to B&W Y-12.
“B&W Y-12 noted that NNSA’s decision to appoint B&W Y-12 as the single point of accountability for security gives one contractor sole responsibility for all operations at the Y-12 site,” the release said. “With overall accountability for the combined security function, B&W Y‑12 continues to monitor WSI-Oak Ridge’s performance and to assess whether the subcontractor model provides sufficient integration for successful security operations.”
The release said B&W Y-12 has “stepped up and assumed the leadership responsibility necessary to make the warranted and integrated changes to prevent any future occurrences.” Those actions included removing and replacing key leaders at both B&W Y-12 and WSI-Oak Ridge.
For example, Spencer was named B&W Y-12 president and general manager, replacing Darrel Kohlhorst, who retired Aug. 10. The company’s press release called Spencer a “change agent whose strengths include the institution of disciplined nuclear operations with rigorous conduct of operations and security.”
Other B&W Y-12 appointments included Rodney Johnson, deputy general manager of security, “who has previously demonstrated his ability to increase the performance of safeguards and security and the protective force,” and Linda Bauer, vice president of facilities, infrastructure, and services, the release said.
It said there are a series of reviews under way at Y-12, and B&W Y-12 has implemented significant corrective actions during the past six weeks:
- All critical security system elements have been restored to service;
- Security cameras have been repaired, adjusted, and performance-tested;
- 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; and
- Daily site-wide alarms have been significantly reduced, and Protective Force alarm responses have improved.
“We believe we have demonstrated a compelling case for NNSA to continue our contract,” Spencer said.
In the show cause response, B&W Y-12 also noted that as the M&O contractor during the past 12 years, the company has significantly exceeded the primary terms and expectations of its contract with NNSA, the release said.
When B&W Y-12 first assumed responsibility for the site, Y-12 faced considerable operational challenges, the release said. Since B&W Y-12 became the site’s managing and operating contractor, Y-12’s production capacity has increased significantly; more than 1.3 million square feet of aging facilities have been demolished and Star Status in the Department of Energy’s Voluntary Protection Program has been achieved, just to name a few of the many B&W Y-12 achievements, the release said.
“B&W Y-12 has the commitment and capability to execute its contractual responsibilities and fulfill its mission at the highest level of performance,” Spencer said. “We will continue our path forward for improvements, and will embed and make them long lasting at Y-12.”