Another Y-12 shocker: WSI official suspended after evidence of possible cheating on security tests
Already under tremendous fire for an unprecedented security breach a month ago, the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant is now dealing with another stunning blunder.
The U.S. Department of Energy tonight confirmed that inspectors from DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Security — at Y-12 last week to conduct a major top-to-bottom security review — found copies of security quizzes and answers and other inspection-related materials in one of the plant’s patrol cars. There were indications that the sensitive papers, which had been sent to Oak Ridge in advance by encrypted email to make sure they were valid for testing, had been copied and apparently were being distributed to help guards pass the critical reviews that involve basic security knowledge, proper use of weapons, gas masks, understanding of post duties, etc.
I initially inquired about the allegations of cheating last Thursday, but the National Nuclear Security Administration did not respond to questions.
An official with DOE’s Office of Health Safety and Security tonight confirmed that John Garrity, the director of protective force operations for WSI-Oak Ridge, was suspended last week following the incident. WSI is the proforce subcontractor, reporting to B&W Y-12.
The security inspection at Y-12, which was ordered by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu following the July 28 security breach by three Plowshares protesters, was begun last Monday. However, the operations were put on hold after the stacks of papers relating to the security inspection were found around midnight on Wednesday in the patrol car of a WSI sergeant, according to an HSS official speaking on background.
All inspection activities were suspended last Thursday, and DOE indicated that the knowledge tests planned for Y-12 security guards are being revised and will be fresh and new when the inspection team returns to Oak Ridge the week of September 10. Guards who had been randomly chosen to participate in the exams will also be reselected. Tests that had already been conducted will be redone.
In addition, an official with the Health, Safety and Security Office said there are plans to tighten controls on the sharing of information for future security inspections at Y-12 and at the other nine Department of Energy installations around the country where Category I special nuclear materials are housed. That would include Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which houses a stockpile of fissionable U-233.
According to the DOE official, none of the sensitive paperwork pertained to the planned force-on-force exercises that will be conducted at Y-12 in the near future. Those activities will evaluate teams of Y-12 guards in mock exercises against an incoming team of experts. It’s not yet clear if DOE will revise its plans for the upcoming force-on-force exercises as a precaution.
A member of DOE’s inspection team reportedly found a stack of sensitive testing materials inside a patrol car during one of the night-shift testing activities.
The information included both the questions and answers for the knowlege tests, as well as information on plans for evaluations at the different security posts.
It was obviously a big concern, and the team immediately went to WSI’s management, which confirmed that the materials had been used as a training aid, the DOE official said.
The official said it was not immediately clear whether the guards knew they were receiving tests in advance or were just being asked to study certain things to prepare for the security inspections.
The inspection team also took the information to the federal National Nuclear Security Administration office at Y-12 and also to B&W Y-12, the government’s managing conctractor. DOE indicated it had received good cooperation from B&W following the incident last week.
The dissemination of information was disturbing because the information is sensitive to the testing and security officials who receive it are required to sign non-disclosure statements.
In this instance, the DOE official, the agency clearly lost control. However, in the long run, DOE still expects to complete valid, usable evaluations of Y-12’s security capabilities, he said.
DOE’s HSS team plans to wrap up its inspection by the 21st of September and have a report delivered to Secretary Chu by Sept. 28.
235 Apollo Beach Blvd #507
Apollo Beach, FL 33572