B&W Y-12 takes over guard force, hires 560 WSI workers

Note: This story was updated at 11:07 p.m.

After a four-week transition, B&W Y-12 has taken over the security guard force at the Y-12 National Security Complex and hired 560 WSI Oak Ridge employees.

The transition ends three months after an unprecedented security breach at Y-12 and one month after B&W Y-12 announced it would terminate its contract with WSI Oak Ridge. That company, also known as Wackenhut and G4S Government Solutions, had provided security guards at the nuclear weapons complex for about a dozen years.

“The transition from WSI Oak Ridge to B&W Y-12 has gone very smoothly, and we welcome these new employees to the company,” said retired Brig. Gen. Rod Johnson, deputy general manager for security. “We’ve already seen improvements in security performance following previously announced contracting changes, and we believe we’ll see additional successes with the protective force fully integrated into B&W Y-12.”

B&W Y-12 announced it would end the WSI Oak Ridge contract after a Sept. 28 recommendation from the National Nuclear Security Administration. B&W Y-12 manages and operates Y-12 for the NNSA.

The transition from WSI to B&W Y-12 began Oct. 1. B&W had said it would offer employment to active Y-12 security police officers and other active union WSI Oak Ridge employees at Y-12 and the Central Training Facility in Oak Ridge.

B&W Y-12 had also said it would evaluate non-union WSI Oak Ridge employees who supervise and support Y-12 guards.

WSI became a subcontractor to B&W Y-12 after the July 28 security breach. Before that highly publicized intrusion, WSI had operated under a separate contract with the NNSA.

The contracting change was among many made after three anti-nuclear weapons activists, including an 82-year-old nun, sneaked into Y-12 before dawn on July 28, cut through three fences with bolt cutters, and vandalized a building where bomb-grade uranium is stored. The breach also led to federal investigations and critical reports, congressional hearings, staff re-assignments and suspensions, and at least one firing.

B&W Y-12 said it has made many improvements in security in the past three months, significantly reducing false and nuisance alarms, successfully completing two intensive force-on-force exercises to test protective force readiness, and installing new security cameras.

Y-12 cameras weren’t working, guards failed to react, federal letter says

Transform Now Plowshares

The three anti-nuclear weapons activists pictured above sneaked into a high-security area at the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28 and triggered a security crisis that has led to personnel changes, a temporary halt in nuclear operations, and a potential termination of a federal contract with B&W Y-12. From left to right, the three protesters are Michael R. Walli, Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed. (Submitted photo)

Note: This story was last updated at 9:32 a.m. Aug. 15.

Many security cameras weren’t working when three anti-nuclear weapons activists sneaked into the Y-12 National Security Complex early in the morning on Saturday, July 28, a federal official said in a critical letter released Tuesday evening.

One of those cameras was near a fence penetrated by the protesters, who allegedly used bolt-cutters to slice through three fences before they walked to a high-security building known as the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where bomb-grade uranium is stored.

The intruders, who allegedly spray-painted slogans and splashed human blood on the HEUMF, set off many alarms in a “multi-layered sensor system” in a fence line, but the Y-12 protective force failed to react, the official said.

When guards alerted by the alarms responded with a vehicle patrol, it took them too long to arrive at the scene, and once there, they “failed to take appropriate steps to take control of the situation,” said the official, National Nuclear Security Administration Contracting Officer Jill Y. Albaugh. She said a responding supervisor finally took control and removed the protesters.

Written Friday, Albaugh’s letter gives Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Y-12, the plant’s managing and operating contractor, 30 days to show why the federal government should not proceed to terminate its contract.

[Read more…]