SEPTEMBER 10, 2015
The U.S. government has invested a mind-boggling $50 million on a seriously flawed “state-of-the-art” security system for a nuclear weapons lab and it will take hundreds of millions more to correct the problem. This is not a joke, just business as usual at Uncle Sam & Associates.
The facility, Y-12 National Security Complex, operates under the Department of Energy (DOE) and houses enough uranium for 10,000 nuclear warheads. It’s located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and is operated by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is responsible for the management and security of the country’s nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs.
The government refers to the Y-12 National Security Complex as the “Fort Knox of Uranium” and claims it has the “most stringent security in the world”, but the reality is much different. The facility’s security is actually a joke, a very expensive joke. It’s promoted as a sophisticated system featuring high-tech cameras and sensors that work effectively with a large staff of guards that patrol the property, which is surrounded by huge security towers and special fences. After all, the Y-12 National Security Complex is the country’s main storage facility for bomb-grade uranium and it makes uranium parts for every warhead in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Old weapons are also dismantled at the compound, which claims to “maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.”
A few years ago an 82-year-old Catholic nun, a renowned antinuclear activist, and two other seniors somehow managed to evade the “most stringent security in the world” with flashlights and bolt cutters. The nun and her pals went undetected by Y-12 security for two hours. Once inside, the trio of protestors splashed blood around the nuclear complex and hung banners outside its walls. The embarrassing breach made international headlines and left authorities scrambling to ensure that it was a fluke, that security was as strong as ever.
Now a federal audit reveals that the costly security system created to keep intruders out of the Y-12 compound continues to be unreliable. The system is known as Argus and it’s flawed, according to the DOE Inspector General. It gets better; the agency watchdog says it will take “approximately $300 million” to “fully address” the problem. Here’s another bothersome little detail included in the report; a few years ago the government spent nearly $1.3 million for a consultant to determine what steps should be taken to ensure that the system functioned properly.
Security lapses at nuclear weapons facilities have long been an embarrassing problem for the U.S. government. A few years ago Judicial Watch reported that security was compromised at the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, a sprawling 58-square-mile facility that houses uranium and other nuclear materials. Under a special government program thousands of foreign nationals from communist and Middle Eastern countries were granted “unaccompanied access” to the facility and weren’t properly vetted through “counterintelligence consultations.” The security violations, documented in a federal audit, were committed by nationals from China, Pakistan and Egypt, among other countries.
Shortly before that breach became public, two employees at a separate federally-owned nuclear lab pleaded guilty to criminal charges for passing classified weapons data to a foreign government that’s hostile to the U.S. The scheme took place at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which has a long and sordid history of grave security violations that date back to the late 90s. In 1999 a Chinese communist scientist (Wen Ho Lee) stole nuclear secrets from the facility but was not prosecuted by the Clinton Justice Department because then Attorney General Janet Reno claimed the accusations were racist. Judicial Watch represented the whistleblower, Notra Trulock, responsible for launching an investigation into Lee’s actions. Trulok was the Energy Department’s intelligence operations chief and Clinton administration officials defamed him by accusing him of being a racist in order to cover up Lee’s repeated security violations.
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