[Investigative journalist Tom Nugent is the author of Death at Buffalo Creek (W.W. Norton), a book about the environmental impact of coal mining. Donald R. Soeken, LCSW-C, Ph.D., is the founder of Whistleblower Support Fund and a licensed clinical social worker who has spent more than three decades counseling federal whistle-blowers and has been profiled in NY Times, Parade, etc.]
Oak Ridge Nuclear Weapons Security Breach Showed How
U.S. System for Protecting Federal Whistleblowers Is Broken
Inquiry by Department of Energy Inspector General
Fails to Address the "Culture of Fear" at Y-12 Facility
By Tom Nugent and Donald R. Soeken, Ph.D.
Now that President Barack Obama has been convincingly reelected, he can do the nation a huge service by quickly ordering his White House legal counsel to review a potential national security threat that could produce a catastrophe on the scale of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
That potentially devastating threat was nakedly exposed last July 28, when three senior citizens armed only with Bibles and bolt-cutters successfully invaded the country's major storage facility for enriched uranium.
Led by an 82-year-old, white-haired nun, the trio of elderly peace activists (average age: 67) managed to cut their way through three high-tech security fences . . . and then splashed blood and painted antiwar slogans at the $500 million Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF), supposedly the most heavily guarded nuclear weapons materials depot in the world.
An enormous embarrassment to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) -- which has overall responsibility for security at the Oak Ridge (Tenn.) Nuclear Reservation -- the debacle at the "Y-12" storage facility led to numerous firings and blistering criticism aimed at the private contractor which had been directing day to day security operations for DOE.
Predictably enough, the DOE Inspector General (IG), Gregory H. Friedman, quickly launched a wide-ranging investigation into the massive security breach. After several weeks of analyzing the breakdown in detail, the IG issued a report that blamed the incident on "multiple system failures on several levels" ( http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/inquiry-security-breach-national-nuclear-security-administrations-y-12-national ).