Not everybody realizes it, but 6 a.m. is rush hour at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, so the pre-dawn security incident Thursday morning — where a guy allegedly zoomed through the main entry portal, crashed his vehicle and ran into the woods — caused a lot of problems for a lot of people.
Hundreds of commuting Y-12 employees were lined up in their cars and trucks and SUVs, waiting to pass through security and get to their job sites. Getting into Y-12 on any morning can be a molasses-type exercise, but Thursday morning was extremely frustrating, especially when plant workers were turned away at the gate and told to go home. A security lockdown was in place.
It was a “trying morning” at Y-12, as was noted in a message to employees by top executives of Consolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor at Y-12.
Bill Tindal, Y-12’s site manager for CNS, and Ken Freeman, CNS manager for safeguards and security, authored a message to Y-12 employees that shared their pain and thanked them for their patience. Keep in mind that many Y-12 workers are still hurting from the July 28, 2012 break-in by peace protesters, and it’s easy to understand how trying it was to have another incident with Y-12 security in the spotlight. But this one was different.
‘’Early this morning, Y-12 security personnel and the city of Oak Ridge Police Department responded to an incident that affected access to Y-12,” Tindal and Freeman wrote. “This is an enforcement matter, and as such there are many aspects that we cannot discuss. But it affects the plant, and it affects you as employees, so here is what we can tell you.
‘’At about 5:52 a.m., an individual who is not a Y-12 employee drove his vehicle through Y-12’s east portal gate without stopping for a badge check. Y-12 Security personnel responded immediately and appropriately, engaging security protocols to stop the vehicle’s progress well before reaching site facilities. As Y-12 security police officers responded, the driver crashed his vehicle and then fled on foot. The individual was apprehended by Y-12 security police and then arrested by the Oak Ridge Police Department.”
The CNS officials said they took the necessary steps, putting security above all else.
“To protect our people and the site – and to allow our security personnel the ability to best do their jobs – the decision was made immediately to lock down the site,” Tiindal and Freeman wrote. “Employees already on site were were placed in curfew, and those who had not yet entered Y-12 were denied access.”
They added: “We fully recognize that it is frustrating to make the drive to work and then not be able to gain site access, but safety and security were our paramount focus as we dealt with the situation. We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding of this situation and the trying morning it made for all.”
The CNS officials praised the responses by the plant shift superintendent’s office, as well as other organizations, and the coordination of a difficult-to-deal-with situation.
“Our systems worked as planned,” they said.
The incident on Thursday will apparently have lingering impacts on workers.
According to the message from Tindal and Freeman, “Because the vehicle crash site is now a crime scene, we will have to redirect traffic within the site until the investigation is complete. Please exercise caution when driving or walking within the site, and follow all instructions.”
It’s not yet clear when that investigation will be completed, although it may have already passed that stage.
Tindal and Freeman thanked the workforce for their patience and understanding. “We are proud of the impressive response by the Y-12 team to this incident,” they wrote.
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