published Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Report by Y-12 contractor shows alarms triggered in Oak Ridge by protesters

Aerial photograph of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.
Aerial photograph of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request show three different types of alarms were triggered by nuclear weapons protesters during an incursion at an Oak Ridge plant.

The Knoxville News Sentinel ( obtained the documentation that Y-12 plant contractor B&W Y-12 sent the government in response to the incident on July 28, 2012. The three protesters cut through a fence and managed to reach the storage facility that holds weapons-grade uranium before they were confronted. They poured blood onto the facility and spray-painted peace slogans on it.

The 102-page report dated Sept. 10 was in response to a “show-cause order” as federal authorities considered removing the contractor as the plant operator. The documents stated the triggering of multiple alarms “suggested a pathway was being followed.”

The newspaper reported protocol required a patrol team to be sent to the point of the break-in, but the protesters weren’t confronted before reaching the so-called “protected area” of the plant.

Roman Catholic nun Megan Rice, 83, Michael Walli, 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, face a number of felony charges for the protest at Y-12. Their trial is scheduled to begin May 7 in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

The partnership of Babcock& Wilcox and Bechtel National — which form B&W Y-12 — said many of the security failures were the fault of WSI-Oak Ridge, which was the security contractor at the plant. WSI was demoted to a subcontractor and ultimately lost its contract at Y-12.

The National Nuclear Security Administration did not revoke B&W Y-12’s contract, but the agency said it was not fully satisfied with the initial response to its show-cause order.

In response to the order, B&W Y-12 included a description from an internal report by WSI.

“We will not defend the indefensible,” the security contractor’s statement reads. “It is painful and embarrassing for us to view the video images of 62 Patrol pulling up to the protesters in his vehicle, engaging them in seemingly casual exchanges through the window of his vehicle, failing to put the intruders on the ground or handcuff them, and then leaning on his vehicle and even turning his back on the intruders as he awaited the arrival of his supervisor.”

The show-cause response includes a litany of B&W Y-12’s accomplishments, both before and after the July break-in.

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