DOE expresses concern on Y-12 security incidents; won’t take enforcement actions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Enforcement has completed its investigation of a security incident last year in which there were questions about the handling of information in a classified subject area, as well as another incident involving discrepancies in the inventory of “accountable nuclear material” that was determined to be classified.

Y12 gate_MP (2)In a Feb. 13 letter to Consolidated Nuclear Security President Jim Haynes, DOE’s director of enforcement, Steven C. Simonson wrote that both incidents occurred before CNS took over management of Y-12 on July 1, 2014, and were under the watch of the former contractor (B&W Y-12). Simonson expressed concern about the incident and raised some additional issues that need to be addressed by CNS, but he said DOE did not intend to take any enforcement actions at this time.

“The Office of Enforcement investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the security event involving the unclassified waste stream found that this event resulted from failure to evaluate work control processes and operational conditions for work activities in a classified subject area,” the letter stated, “contributing to inaccurate identification and marking of classified information or information that could become classified through compilation or association.”

Simonson said the investigation also “revealed confusion within the workforce about what information is actually classified, particularly when the information is compiled or annotated.” He added: “These circumstances, as well as the lack of requisite classification reviews, were instrumental in contributing to the mishandling and unauthorized disposition of classified information.”

The DOE official also raised concerns about the contractor self-assessment of classification, classified matter protection and control, and operations security. The assessment results “lacked sufficient scope and depth” to ensure compliance with security requirements, he said, and as a result the security event received a lower categorization and premature analysis concluding that it was an isolated event caused by activities for the impending contractor transition.

The investigation found that the incident didn’t stem from an isolated situation, but rather was due to “poor work control processes that had existed for over a decade.”

On the separate security incident involving discrepancies in the nuclear material inventory, “The fact-finding review confirmed that inventory practices and documentation have been inconsistent and inaccurate for several years.” Simonson’s letter said “poor accounting and housekeeping practices” caused significant difficulty in reconciling accountable items.

Corrective actions taken to address that situation appear to be adequate, the federal official said, adding that CNS management attention is needed to make sure there’s no recurrence.

Photo credit: KNS/Michael Patrick

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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.