B&W Y-12 vs. WSI

As I noted in an earlier post, the B&W Y-12 show-cause response highlighted some contentious issues between B&W and WSI in the blame game that followed last year’s security breach. I addressed a little of that in Wednesday’s column, copied here:
There were various, unofficial reports of testy relations between B&W Y-12, the managing contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, and WSI-Oak Ridge, the protective force contractor at Y-12, long before the July 28, 2012, security breach.
But it would seem the gloves really came off after that event.

There is evidence of that in B&W’s response to the federal government’s show-cause order, which threatened to remove the company as Y-12 managing contractor’s following the break-in by Plowshares protesters. Actually, both contractors were under threat of termination, but B&W Y-12’s Sept. 10 response covered for both because by the time the response was due to the National Nuclear Security Administration WSI had been subordinated to a subcontractor role — reporting to B&W instead of directly to NNSA.
Anyway, each of the contractors pointed fingers at the other following the incident in which three protesters somehow managed to penetrate Y-12’s high-security Protected Area and sully the exterior of the plant’s storage facility for weapons-grade uranium.
There apparently was plenty of blame to go around.
For instance, much has been made about the security equipment that failed to work in the early-morning hours of July 28.
Dozens of pieces of security hardware — motion detectors, surveillance cameras, etc. — were inoperable at the time of the break-in, according to investigation reports. There have been suggestions that if a key camera in Zone 62 of the plant’s perimeter intrusion detection and assessment system (PIDAS) had been working at the time, it would have allowed security guards to identity the protesters at an early stage of their intrusion and nab them before they ever reached the inner sanctum.
The fault for that problem has been bandied about.
B&W Y-12, the managing contractor, was responsible for maintaining facilities and equipment at the national security installation. In order to keep things working, however, B&W needed to know what wasn’t working out in the field.
WSI’s police officers at Y-12 reportedly knew a bunch of equipment wasn’t working, reported it to superiors, and the inoperable equipment made its way onto a list of stuff that needed to be repaired. In the meantime, “compensatory measures” were supposed to make up for the reduced capabilities in the electronic security systems. Such as extra patrols to check out alarms in areas where sensors might not be working properly or where a camera was unavailable.
Over time, the situation became too comfortable, with repairs getting put off indefinitely. And whose fault was that?
“WSI has asserted that it persistently submitted reports of problems with the PIDAS cameras to B&W Y-12, which allegedly ‘routinely ignored’ them,” B&W’s show-cause response stated. “While B&W Y-12 has been unable to verify this allegation, WSI’s history at Y-12 demonstrates that it knew how to elevate issues when it deemed necessary and — by WSI’s own admission — when it did elevate issues, B&W Y-12 effectively resolved those issues.”
Whoever was right on such disagreements, both contractors apparently lost in the end.
WSI’s subcontract was terminated, and Babcock & Wilcox, the lead partner in B&W Y-12, failed to win a new Y-12 management contract (although the combined contract award for Y-12/Pantex is still under protest).

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.