Since three protesters broke in last summer, security cameras and sensors have been repaired and replaced. There are more security patrols at the Y-12 National Security Complex and more staff in the Central Alarm Station. And officials and workers are trying to reduce the false and nuisance alarm rate.
Those are among the improvements highlighted in a Y-12 security update published in May. It said Y-12 quickly began making changes after the July 28 security breach, when three anti-nuclear weapons activists broke into the plant before dawn, cut through three fences in the high-security Protected 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.
“Y-12 has carefully examined the circumstances that led to the event, developed actions to fix the problems that were discovered, and is applying the lessons learned to our security posture and operations,” the security update said. “These actions included adding key leadership personnel, restoring to service critical security elements, and refining alarm system components to enhance reliability.”
The security update said all the Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Assessment System, or PIDAS, cameras at Y-12 were replaced, and extra concertina wire installed to fully enclose all critical areas. Also, retired Brig. Gen. Rod Johnson was brought in from B&W Pantex to assume responsibility for Y-12’s Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services.
A summary of security improvements was requested in the past few days after a motorist who did not have permission to be at the nuclear weapons plant said she was waved through the main entrance by security police officers on Thursday morning. Federal officials said Y-12 security failed to follow proper procedure, and three security police officers and one supervisor have been suspended.
Y-12 security has been under increased scrutiny since the July 28 security breach, when the three protesters, who have since been convicted on two federal charges, were able to pass through the PIDAS and make it to the fortress-like HEUMF before they were detained. The unprecedented intrusion led to federal investigations, congressional hearings, staff changes, and a contract termination for former security contractor WSI Oak Ridge.
A report by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General in August said 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 HEUMF. The report also “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.”
The May security update said all PIDAS sensors have now been repaired, a maintenance backlog on critical security elements, or CSEs, has been eliminated, and a 24-hour repair standard has been established for CSEs. A fragmented work planning and scheduling process has been significantly improved, the update said.
In October, B&W Y-12, the plant’s management and operating contractor, took over the plant’s Protective Force and hired more than 550 guards from WSI Oak Ridge.
“Duties and responsibilities were clarified, management was unified, and B&W Y-12 now has full responsibility for the security force,” the security update said.
“Actions taken since July 28 have been highly effective in remedying security issues, as evidenced by a significant reduction in false and nuisance alarms; the Protective Force’s successful completion of two intensive force-on-force exercises; and a Health, Safety, and Security review that noted improvement in Y-12’s security performance, capabilities, and readiness,” it said.
Here is more information quoted from the security update:
- Force-on-Force: Y-12’s Protective Force has completed highly successful performance tests and full-scale force-on-force exercises and continues to implement training improvements, in addition to adopting a more paramilitary approach and attitude.
- Central Alarm Station: The Central Alarm Station has been redesigned, and Y-12 continues to improve capabilities, reduce false and nuisance alarm rates, and maintain critical system elements at a high readiness level.
- WEPAR: Y-12 continues to reduce its high-security footprint with the West End Protected Area Reduction project, which includes a physical barrier, sensors, and portal to reduce the size of the PIDAS.
- Boundary Fence: In addition to other security measures completed in recent months, the National Nuclear Security Administration extended the boundary fence at Y-12 along Scarboro Road. Events of the past several months have shown that there is a greater threat of trespassing on the site, and the costs for responding to this threat are increasing. Y-12 is taking conservative and appropriate measures to make such illegal actions more difficult.