Experts recommend federalizing guard forces at DOE nuclear weapons sites, nonprofit says

Note: This story was updated at 12:42 p.m. Jan. 15.

Three experts have recommended that guard forces be federalized at federal sites where bomb-grade uranium is stored, according to a nonprofit watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C.

Peter Stockton, senior investigator at the Project On Government Oversight, said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu asked the experts—Norm Augustine, C. Donald Alston, and Richard Meserve—to review the physical security of the entire nuclear weapons complex after the July 28 security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

Augustine is a former chief executive officer at Lockheed Martin, Meserve is a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman, and Alston is a retired U.S. Air Force major general and former commander at Warren Air Force Base, Stockton said.

Stockton said the three were asked to submit a letter with recommendations to change and improve the security system of the overall complex. The letters were sent to Chu on Dec. 6.

He said the U.S. Department of Energy has refused to release the letters, but POGO has obtained copies.

Of particular interest to POGO, Stockton said, was that all three experts recommended guard forces be federalized at sites where bomb-grade uranium and plutonium is stored. That’s something that POGO has also recommended.

“POGO recommends that Congress finally move ahead on federalizing the guard forces at all sites where bomb-grade quantities of highly enriched uranium and plutonium are stored,” Stockton said.

He said a federalized force would alleviate one major security concern, the potential impact of guard union strikes.

In September, the chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces introduced legislation that would put the military in charge of security of nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials at certain federal sites, including the Y-12 National Security Complex.

That legislation was in response to the unprecedented July 28 security breach at Y-12, said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican.

During the unprecedented intrusion at Y-12, three anti-nuclear weapons activists allegedly hiked over a ridge on the north side of Y-12 before dawn July 28, cut through three fences in a high-security area, and splashed human blood and spray-painted slogans on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

Security at Y-12, including security systems and personnel, has been provided by contractors, including B&W Y-12 and WSI Oak Ridge.

Read Alston’s letter here.

Read Augustine’s letter here.

Read Meserve’s letter here.

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