Steve Erhart’s testimony on Y-12 production, credibility, etc., following break-in by protesters

erhartSome of the more interesting testimony in the May trial of three Plowshares protesters came from Steve Erhart, the manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.

During questioning by Melissa Kirby, assistant U.S. attorney, Erhart talked about the July 28, 2012 break-in at the Oak Ridge plant and how that hurt Y-12.

Here’s a little excerpt from the trial transcript on May 7.

Kirby: Mr. Erhart, how did the shutdown impact Y-12?

Erhart: I assume you’re talking about the 15-day shutdown (of operations that followed the break-in)?

Kirby: Yes.

Erhart: The 15-day shutdown put everything behind at the plant as relates to nuclear operations, which is what primarily we do (at) Y-12. So production schedules were delayed. Some of the work for others, work that we talked about, not just — so it wasn’t just Department of Defense-related work, but other work, because we didn’t open any of the (uranium) vaults for those 15 days so we left the material in its most secure location, took advantage of all the layers of security while we did the retrain (of workers at Y-12).

Kirby: Did Y-12 miss any scheduled deliverables during the period of time that it was shut down?

Erhart: Yes.

Kirby: You mentioned that Y-12 was going to have to catch up. Has Y-12 caught up now to its required deliverables and its schedule today?

Erhart: I don’t know the full answer to that.

Kirby: In what other ways has the defendants’  breach harmed Y-12 operations?

Erhart: Well, it hurt the credibility of the — you know, that credibility is related to the deterrent. It affected our credibility at Y-12. We certainly have a lot of people that were affected by that and the circumstances around it and then the actions that had to be taken after that. So it affected a lot of people, a lot of lives.

It affected on the credibility side, it affected our credibility to overseas. Because if you remember in my earlier testimony, we talk about taking nuclear material from overseas to a more secure place (at Y-12). Although this breach did not get to the special nuclear material, it’s hard to explain that to people’s satisfaction that we did have — that PIDAS was penetrated.

So that affects the credibility of the NNSA and of the United States. So Y-12’s credibility overall was affected.”

A new feature on Atomic City Underground allows readers to sign up for email updates and receive a notice each time new information is posted on the news blog. Just put your email address in the box on the lower right of the blog’s front page and follow instructions. Thanks to all loyal readers.

This entry was posted in NNSA, security, Y-12 on by .

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.