* Break-in at Tennessee site shows Energy Dept. security
* Pentagon would also oversee transportation of nuclear
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Sept 21 The Defense Department
should take over security for U.S. nuclear weapons sites after a
nuclear complex was broken into with ease in July by an
82-year-old nun and two other peace activists, a top lawmaker in
the U.S. House of Representatives said on Friday.
Mike Turner, the Republican chairman of the House Armed
Services panel that oversees the Energy Department's nuclear
weapons complex, has drafted legislation to put the U.S.
military in charge of protecting facilities like the Y-12
complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
"The fact that this vulnerability is so widely known has got
to be addressed," Turner said in an interview.
The Y-12 facility, built after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,
had been previously touted as "the Fort Knox of uranium" and was
supposed to be one of the most secure facilities in the United
But in July, the three anti-nuclear activists cut through
several fences and vandalized a building which holds the U.S.
stockpile of highly enriched uranium used to make nuclear bombs.
An internal Energy Department watchdog found guards ignored
motion sensors because they were routinely triggered by
wildlife, and a security camera that should have shown the
break-in had been broken for about six months.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the
Energy Department, is continuing to investigate what went wrong
with its oversight of contractors.
The facility is run by Babcock & Wilcox Co, and WSI
Oak Ridge, owned by G4S, provides security. Their
contracts are being reviewed, and a number of personnel have
been removed from their jobs.
"We have seen just an absolute failure of security at Y-12.
We believe from our classified briefing that this is
system-wide, that NNSA and (Energy Department) are incapable of
providing the level of security necessary for our nuclear
weapons facilities," Turner said.
Turner, who has spent a decade monitoring issues with the
Energy Department's management of the complex, said he does not
believe the NNSA can fix the issues that allowed for the
Putting the Pentagon in charge would increase security,
allow for better technology and weapons to be used in protecting
facilities, and eliminate any interdepartmental issues in
sharing classified intelligence about threats, he said.
Turner's bill also would charge the Pentagon with securing
the transportation of nuclear materials between facilities.
"I am more concerned about the transport than I am the
facilities, and the facilities have already shown to be highly
vulnerable," he said.
Turner has so far gathered about six Republican cosponsors
for his bill, which he hopes to see become part of the annual
defense policy legislation when the Senate and House finalize it
after the Nov. 6 election.