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Preview spoils nuclear plant security test

From Mike Ahlers
CNN Washington Bureau

The entrance to the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge
The entrance to the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge

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National Nuclear Security Administration
Department of Energy
Acts of terror
Nuclear Warfare

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An exercise to test preparedness against a terrorist attack at a nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was compromised last summer when guards got a peek at the plans, according to a report by the Department of Energy's inspector general.

The report, issued Monday, further said there was "compelling" evidence that security tests have been manipulated since the mid-1980s.

The Y-12 National Security Complex -- approximately 600 buildings over 811 acres -- was established along with the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.

Both are situated on the 33,750-acre Oak Ridge Reservation that is home to a number of Department of Energy science and technology programs.

Several sensitive activities take place at the Y-12 plant, including the warehousing of enriched uranium and the dismantlement and storage of weapons. The site was being tested to see if it could defend against potential security incidents.

But the exercise was compromised when personnel were shown computer simulations of the attack in advance, according to the DOE inspector general's office.

"As a consequence, the test results were, in our judgment, tainted and unreliable," the report said.

The test manager became suspicious after guards at the Y-12 complex fended off all four simulated attacks, each involving a different scenario, Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman wrote.

Computer models had predicted the attackers would prevail in two of the scenarios.

The manager investigated and found that shortly before the June 26 test, two security workers employed by Wackenhut Services Inc. were inappropriately allowed to view the computer simulations of the four scenarios, the report said.

Wackenhut, based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, has provided security at the facility since January 2000. It is owned by Group 4 Falck A/S, a Danish company that claims to be a world leader in security services. (Wackenhut)

The report said the inspector general's office interviewed more than 30 current and former security personnel.

Some of those interviewed "provided us with compelling testimony that there has been a pattern of actions by site security personnel going back to the mid-1980s that may have negatively affected the reliability" of security tests, the report said.

Among the reported abuses:

• Security personnel would be assigned to "tail" those acting as aggressors while they were touring Y-12 buildings in preparation for an exercise.

• Managers would increase the number of available responders and put well-prepared security personnel in place of lesser-prepared personnel before an exercise.

• In an exercise in late 2000 or early 2001, security managers told security officers "the building and target to be attacked, the exact number of adversaries, and the location where a diversion would occur."

• In simulated attacks where security personnel wore gear to determine whether they had received a simulated fatal gunshot, participants at times removed the batteries from the gear, put the batteries in backward, or placed tape, mud or Vaseline over the sensors so they would not operate properly.

The inspector general's office said that while no one had documentation to support the allegations, "the extent and the nature of the testimonial evidence" was compelling.

The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to calls from CNN. But in the report, the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration "concurred" with the findings and said it was implementing a series of corrective actions.

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