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USA lucky it was a nun, not a terrorist, breaking into nuke site

“We were lucky in that regard that it was the nun and her cohorts, rather than a serious terrorist outfit,”

Intrusion embarrasses ‘Fort Knox of uranium’, Google News, By ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press – 19 Aug   OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — Officials like to refer to the Y-12 National Security Complex as the Fort Knox for highly enriched uranium, which is why an unprecedented incursion by an 82-year-old nun and two fellow protesters has critics mocking the notion that the weapons plant is secure…..

Y-12 makes uranium parts for every warhead in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, dismantles old weapons and is the nation’s primary storehouse for bomb-grade uranium…. Peter Stockton, a former DOE adviser on nuclear security in the Clinton administration and a senior
investigator with the Project On Government Oversight, said the incident hasn’t been taken seriously enough because the intruders had no violent intentions.

“We were lucky in that regard that it was the nun and her cohorts,
rather than a serious terrorist outfit,” Stockton said. POGO, a
Washington-based independent watchdog known for exposing overpriced
military parts and other government shortcomings, has been a frequent
critic of security lapses at the facility.
Stockton called the July 28 intrusion the “only serious penetration of
a plant” that he’s aware of since becoming involved in nuclear
security issues in the mid-1970s.
“It is simply (expletive) unbelievable,” he said.
Other than striking out in the pre-dawn darkness, the three protesters
did little to conceal their nearly half-mile trek into the restricted
area where signs warn intruders they could be shot.
According to court documents, they used bolt cutters to get through
three fences, tripping alarms in the process. They told acquaintances
in the peace movement that they spent more than two hours inside the
restricted area. The action culminated in the protesters
spray-painting and throwing blood on the walls of the white
fortress-like HEUMF structure.
The Energy Department’s “show cause” letter to contractor Babcock &
Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 LLC identifies an “inappropriate”
cultural mindset in the plant and a “severe lapse of discipline.”
“Despite receiving numerous alarms from the multi-layered sensor
system in the fence line, the protective force failed to react to the
protesters as they cut through the three fences,” according to letter.
And once they did decide to investigate, responders didn’t know what
to do with the protesters until a supervisor took control of the
situation….. Y-12 has always been a secretive place. The government
tucked it and other bomb-making facilities into a valley about 30
miles west of Knoxville during World War II and built a guarded city
around it. The city of Oak Ridge is open today, but most of the Y-12
facilities can’t be seen from the road and visitors must get a
security clearance to enter.
One indicator of how serious authorities consider the July breach is
how they’re treating the arrested trio….. This time, federal
prosecutors have thrown the book at the three protesters, charging
them with offenses that could carry cumulative prison sentences of 16
years for Sister Megan Rice of Las Vegas, Michael Walli of Washington
and Greg Boertje-Obed of Duluth, Minn.
“That’s the reaction to the embarrassment,” said Ralph Hutchison, of
the loose-knit Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.
Previous protests around the plant — including one less than three
months after 9/11 — have led to millions of dollars of security
upgrades. But those haven’t prevented repeated lapses.
“We’re paying all that money for an illusion of security — and you
really can’t secure the plant,” Hutchison said….. The most recent
protest was in response to the preparations for building of a new
multibillion-dollar uranium processing plant at Y-12, said Hutchison,
of the anti-war group. The intrusion should cause officials to
“recognize that building the new bomb plant carries with it
significant security risks.”


August 20, 2012 - Posted by | incidents, USA

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