Before dawn on July 28, three activists, including an 82-year-old woman, entered the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (Y-12) at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  They were able to access the plant’s highest-security areas.

There are conflicting accounts of how long they were inside the security perimeter before being arrested by the security guards and whether the intrusion was properly detected by the Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Assessment System (PIDAS).  The Y-12 Complex stores the nation’s reserve of highly enriched uranium (HEU), a main ingredient of nuclear weapons and power source for many Navy ships.

Security is provided by contractors WSI Oak Ridge and  B&W Y-12 overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration.  The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was created after 9/11 to oversee security at nuclear facilities.  There is discussion about making  the NNSA independent of the Department of Energy.

One of the intruders has made a statement relating her version of events.   They infiltrated the facility from a nearby ridge.  They saw and avoided several white security vehicles.  After cutting the first fence, they hid in tall grass while a patrol vehicle passed before advancing and breaching the two additional fences.

Photo courtesy of Knox News

Upon gaining access to the high-security Protected Area, they took their time.  “We did it thoughtfully minded. We placed everything on the ground that we needed.”  They carried out several planned actions and were able to read their entire statement before other guards arrived and handcuffed them.  They were standing about 20 feet from a guard turret on the building.

Former security guard Kirk Garland was the first on scene at the intrusion.   “I just think it’s ridiculous that I was the one that was fired,” he said.  He claimed he did not draw his gun or take any other actions because they were pacifist protesters and they obeyed his commands.  He said he was the only guard at the scene for about four minutes.  “They got to where they shouldn’t have been, but that’s not my fault” he said.

The security breach has led to a temporary suspension of activities where “all special nuclear materials will be moved to vault-type facilities on site, all nuclear operations will be halted, and contractor security personnel will undergo training and refresher instruction.”