Y-12 camera didn’t work, hammering trespassers mistaken for maintenance

Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility

Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (Photo courtesy of NNSA/B&W Y-12)

Note: This story was last updated at 10:40 p.m.

A special federal report published Wednesday documents alleged failures that allowed three anti-nuclear weapons activists to sneak into the Y-12 National Security Complex on July 28, penetrate a high-security area, and spray-paint slogans and splash human blood on a building that stores bomb-grade uranium.

Among the findings: A critical security camera in an area penetrated by the protesters hadn’t worked for about six months, and guards assumed the trespassers were maintenance workers when they used hammers to beat on the walls of the uranium storage building, officially known as the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

The failures in the $150 million security system at Y-12, which has “long enjoyed a reputation as one of the most secure facilities in the United States,” raised serious questions, said the 18-page report by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General.

“We identified troubling displays of ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures to maintain critical security equipment, over-reliance on compensatory measures, misunderstanding of security protocols, poor communications, and weaknesses in contract and resource management,” said the report, signed by Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman.

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IG report finds ‘multiple system failures’ at Y-12, inept alarm responses

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General has released a report on the July 28 security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and it found “multiple system failures on several levels,” including ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures to maintain critical security equipment, misunderstanding of security protocols, and poor communications.

There was also an over-reliance on “compensatory measures,” and weaknesses in contract and resource management, said the 18-page report, released about one month after the security breach. In addition, “contractor governance and federal oversight failed to identify and correct early indicators of these multiple system breakdowns.

“When combined, these issues directly contributed to an atmosphere in which the trespassers could gain access to the protected security area directly adjacent to one of the nation’s most critically important and highly secured weapons-related facilities,” according to a summary of the report posted on the OIG website.

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