Police officers at the Y-12 National Security Complex failed to follow established procedures when they allowed an Oak Ridge woman who did not have permission to be at the nuclear weapons plant to drive through the main entrance at Scarboro Road on Thursday morning, federal officials said.
Brenda L. Haptonstall, 62, told Oak Ridge police she was looking for a new, low-cost apartment complex and followed morning commuters through the east gate at the Y-12 National Security Complex at about 6:10 a.m. Thursday.
An Oak Ridge Police Department report said Haptonstall drove unhindered through the plant before she was stopped by security officers at the west gate. Haptonstall told ORPD Officer Roy J. Heinz that she thought there must have been a crash at Y-12 because there were “nice officers waving her through with illuminated flashlight cones,” the report said.
In a Friday evening statement, Steven Wyatt, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said Haptonstall was stopped by Y-12 security personnel quickly after she entered the site, and was subsequently detained and turned over to the Oak Ridge Police Department.
“At no time did she have access to sensitive areas of Y-12 or leave her vehicle, and no material or facilities were ever at risk,” Wyatt said.
He said the NNSA has zero tolerance for security lapses and is ensuring there is “full accountability for this unacceptable incident.”
“Safety and security are NNSA’s top priorities, and the causes of this failure will be reviewed aggressively and corrected quickly,” Wyatt said. “The security police officers involved in this incident have been removed from duty pending the outcome of an investigation. We are also reviewing gate procedures and placing supervisors at each entrance to monitor the work of Y-12 security personnel until further notice.”
The ORPD report said security personnel declined to prosecute Haptonstall. Heinz and ORPD Officer Grant Gouldie escorted her off the property.
Y-12 security has come under increased public scrutiny since three peace protesters, all anti-nuclear weapons activists, broke into the 811-acre plant in July, entered a high-security area, and splashed human blood, spray-painted slogans, and hammered on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where most of the nation’s bomb-grade uranium is stored.
The three protesters—Greg Boertje-Obed, 58; Megan Rice, 83; and Michael Walli, 64—were convicted in federal court in May of willful destruction of government property and injuring national defense premises with the intent to interfere with the national defense. They each face up to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced Sept. 23.
There have been two trespassing incidents since the unprecedented July 28 security breach, and in April, a Washington Post photographer was questioned by a security police officer as she walked toward a federal boundary line while taking pictures for a story about the security breach. Y-12 officials said the photographer never crossed the boundary line, and the Oak Ridge Police Department escorted her back to her vehicle near the intersection of Illinois Avenue and Scarboro Road to retrieve her identification.
In response to the three trespassing incidents involving five people in the past year, the NNSA in April announced plans to erect a fence around an area that has traditionally been used for protests and vigils outside the plant’s main entrance. Federal officials say other security measures have also been taken.
Note: This story was last updated at 7:05 p.m.