No intentional wrongdoing in Y-12 test question distribution, WSI Oak Ridge says

Note: This story was updated at 9:58 a.m. Sept. 19.

WSI Oak Ridge workers did not intend to do anything wrong when test questions associated with a federal inspection were distributed to employees in August, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

The test questions and other information were allegedly found in a patrol vehicle on Aug. 29. They were part of a federal investigation after the July 28 security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and they were not supposed to be shared, a U.S. Department of Energy official said earlier this month.

In its statement Tuesday, WSI Oak Ridge said its investigation, which used independent legal counsel, found that the distribution of the papers was not meant to help employees that could have been tested.

“The investigation concluded that there were a series of e-mails seeking comment on the factual accuracy of a proposed written examination that had been prepared for administration to selected members of the Protective Force,” the company said. “The e-mail, along with the list of proposed questions, was reviewed by a Protective Force supervisor who, thinking it was a study guide, sent it out to his employees.”

The papers in the patrol vehicle allegedly included answers to a test scheduled to be given to security officers, 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 measures, such as for deploying gas masks.

Bill Eckroade, principal deputy chief for mission support operations in DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Security, or HSS, said the papers “were in a place that was unexpected and undesirable. They may have been used inappropriately.”

WSI Oak Ridge gave the results of its investigation to B&W Y-12, the plant’s managing and operating contractor, on Monday. B&W Y-12 had not approved or approved the findings “at the time of the submittal,” WSI said.

B&W Y-12 had notified WSI on Aug. 31 of a potential contract termination “for default” if the company didn’t take action to address recent security concerns, apparently including the Aug. 29 incident. Monday was the deadline to respond.

The WSI statement did not say how its investigation might affect the reassignment of John Garrity, the new director of the Y-12 Protective Force. Garrity replaced Gary Brandon as Y-12 Protective Force director after the July security breach, and he was “administratively re-assigned” during the WSI investigation of the Aug. 29 incident.

The DOE official said earlier this month that the discovery of the inspection papers in the patrol vehicle had forced federal officials to suspend the guard test, re-do the test materials, and select new staff members to quiz. Federal officials also had to re-do the post checks.

The HSS inspection is one of several at Y-12 after the July 28 intrusion by three anti-nuclear weapons activists. It is expected to wrap up by Sept. 28, when a report could be presented to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

WSI said it remains focused on providing support for and helping to complete “a safe and secure” inspection.

Earlier, B&W Y-12 gave 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. That Aug. 11 notice 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 has responded to the NNSA notice, but it wasn’t immediately clear if WSI has responded to the B&W Y-12 notice.

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 a Feb. 26, 2013, trial in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

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