Mainstream news regarding the breach of the nuclear facilities at Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, has virtually ceased. However, government documents-published only a few months prior to this monumental rupture on July 28th of the most highly secured nuclear facilities in our land-suggest a vast range of systemic bureaucratic blunders.
Initial reports at the time focused blame on one security guard, but it now appears that the security breach at Y-12 is another yet another monumental misstep in a decade-long series of security and safety boondoggles symptomatic of management dysfunction within the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Using only wire cutters and flashlights, Sister Susan Rice, 82 years of age, and two other senior confederates successfully bypassed “an extensive security mechanism that relies on well-trained and extensively equipped protective force, advanced technology, and a variety of physical fortifications” with an annual price tag to the taxpayer of $150 million. The three peace activists then spent three hours just twenty feet from 200 tons of bomb grade plutonium.
Testimony five months prior to the breach at Y-12 by Gene Aloise before the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Committee on Armed Services, documents more than ten years of serious security problems at Y-12 and other facilities under the NNSA and a private contractors. The lone security guard at Y-12 was nothing but a scapegoat for larger security and safety decisions over which he had no control or responsibility.
Mr. Aloise’s testimony documented that NNSA was in fact originally created to fix crucial problems which the Department of Energy (DOE) was unable to address in a satisfactory manner. The security guard at Y-12, the first fired, was a temporary distraction masking much larger issues of mismanagement at Y-12 and other nuclear facilities under NNSA.
Now more than ten years further on, it is the NNSA itself that bears close examination by Congress and the public to insure the on-going security and safety of our nuclear facilities.