Nuclear Weapons Site Reportedly Fails Security Tests

Sunday, July 28, 2013
(photo: U.S. Department of Energy)

A key nuclear weapons facility in South Carolina failed a critical test of its security force earlier this year, according to a government watchdog organization.


The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) discovered that the Department of Energy’s Office of Health, Safety, and Security (HSS) tested security at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, which houses about 13 metric tons of plutonium and other nuclear materials.


The test included a mock attack by HSS commandoes against SRS’s security guards, who work for government contractor Wackenhut Services, Inc.


POGO was told by a “senior government official” that the attackers in one scenario were able to reach a key building and gain access to simulated bomb material. Furthermore, HSS stopped at least two of the security tests early because a shift change resulted in a number of workers entering the “combat” area.


“However, according to the source, continuing with the exercise under those circumstances would have been far more realistic than a sterile attack. A real attack during the confusion of a shift change should be a concern and something our protective forces are trained to handle,” POGO wrote.


HSS also decided to skip some scenarios due to the weather.


“It is not clear whether any potential adversaries would be intimidated by the weather, but it certainly seems that the HSS adversaries are. Our protective forces are being tested, and failing, at the most basic levels, while real-world scenarios seemingly remain unpracticed,” according to POGO researcher Lydia Dennett.


The watchdog group learned that the “award fee” paid to Wackenhut by the government was “significantly downgraded” in the first half of 2013, possibly as a result of the failed security test.


The test was ordered as part of former-Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s demand last year to improve security at all facilities housing bomb-grade fissile material. Chu became concerned following the trespassing of three nuclear activists onto another key nuclear weapons site, the Y-12 facility in Tennessee.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Nuclear Site Unable to Protect Bomb Material in Recent Tests (by Lydia Dennett, Project on Government Oversight)

How the Obama Administration Charged 3 Pacifists with Violent Acts of Sabotage (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

The Government Project that is $6 Billion Over Budget and 10 Years Late (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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