Category Archives: B&W

B&W Pantex gets positive audit from IG

pantex1Generally speaking, B&W Pantex, the former fed contractor at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Texas, got a pretty positive look-back audit at the way it spent government funding. The audit of cost allowability during Fiscal 2013 through June 30, 2014 — the last performance period for the contractor — found no big issues in the way B&W accounted for spending federal dollars. Continue reading

NNSA nails former Y-12 contractor for mishandling of classified documents; three violations issued, but proposed $240K penalty waived

bwy12Former Y-12 contractor Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 LLC was cited for violations involving the mishandling and improper disposal of classified documents.

The National Nuclear Security Administration this week cited B&W Y-12 —  the former contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant — for repeated mishandling and improper disposal of classified documents. The preliminary notice of violations, based on the government’s investigation of events uncovered in 2014, was published on the Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments website.

The letter cited three violations — one Severity Level I and two Severity Level II — and proposed a fine of $240,000, but the NNSA waived the fine because of B&W’s response to the problems and because the contractor had already been penalized with loss of fee in its annual performance evaluation. Security Level I is defined as violations of classified information security requirements with “actual or high potential for adverse impact on the national security.” Level II violations “represent lack of attention or carelessness” in protection of classified information.

In June 2014, a contractor worker at Y-12 reportedly identified a “work-related paper” that contained classified markings for secret/restricted data in an unclassified waste bag that had already been processed out of the plant’s high-security “material access area.” The waste bag contained about 19 additional papers that were either marked as classified or appeared to contain classified information.

That led to an examination of other waste containers, and more problems — in which unclassified containers potentially included classified information — were found. Continue reading

Ex-Y-12 official contests his firing in court; Human Reliability Program was battleground

A complaint filed in federal court alleges that a former contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant fired a security watchdog in 2013 because of an internal power struggle over the plant’s “Human Reliability Program.”y12overview

According to the complaint, which was filed last fall in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Michael Doughty was wrongfully fired by B&W Y-12 — the government’s managing contractor at the time — after Doughty reported the contractor’s inappropriate actions on a security event to the federal team overseeing plant operations.

Doughty was the “management official” for the Human Reliability Program, a security and safety program that’s supposed to ensure that employees with access to special nuclear materials and other sensitive areas at Y-12 meet the highest standards for reliability and physical and mental suitability. There are reportedly about 2,000 employees in the program. Continue reading

How much spent on UPF office space?

A nondescript office building being used by staff working on the Uranium Processing Facility near the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. The UPF is a multibillion dollar project under development at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. (MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL)The office facility at 1060 Commerce Park houses part of the project team for the Uranium Processing Facility. (KNS photo/Michael Patrick)

The project team for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) is consolidating its design and engineering operations at two office facilities in Commerce Park in Oak Ridge, but government contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security — which oversees the work — has refused to provide information on how much it’s paying to rent the space (at 1099 and 1060 Commerce Park) from Cowperwood. Continue reading

Just an opinion

IMG_5075I’m  not a big fan of The Star, a fluffy new magazine put together by Consolidated Nuclear Security, the managing contractor at Y-12 and Pantex. It’s OK, but I much preferred The Y-12 Report, a predecessor publication (pictured) that was meatier and visually more interesting. In fact, I used to like The Y-12 Report more than the longstanding ORNL Review. However, the Review recently underwent a makeover and now has a sprucy new look and easier-to-read format. Things change — sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Most costs confirmed under B&W Y-12

Costs incurred and costs claimed were appropriately managed at the Y-12 National Security Complex by former contractor B&W Y-12, according to an assessment report released today by the Dept. of Energy’s Office of Inspector.bwy12

“Based on our assessment, nothing came to our attention to indicate that the allowable cost-related audit work performed by B&W Y-12’s Internal Audit could not be relied upon,” the IG report stated. “We did not identify any material internal control weaknesses with the cost allowability audit, which generally met the Institute of Internal Auditors International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing.” Continue reading

‘Bulged and hissing’ and other drum problems at Y-12

thewarehouse.jpgGiven the nature of the work at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, much of it involving uranium that doesn’t require a lot of shielding, there’s an abundance of 55-gallon drums used for storage and transport. And, based on a review of recent occurrence reports at Y-12 and incident summaries by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, bad things occasionally happen when you put a bunch of stuff in a drum, put a lid on it and let it sit for a while.

According to a late-August report by safety board staffers assigned to Y-12, the plant shift superintendent authorized “emergency work” to deal with the discovery of several pressurized drums at Building 9215. And, during an effort to vent those drums, some Fire Department personnel — who fortunately had donned HAZMAT suits and respiratory equipment — got sprayed with a “viscous material.” Again, fortunately, the protective gear did its job, and a subsequent survey determined that they had not become contaminated with radioactivity. Continue reading

The smell of highly enriched uranium

buttonI reported earlier about a new book by Steve Gibbs, a former official with Wackenhut Services when the security company managed the protective force at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. That post was mostly about Gibbs’ comments on the July 28, 2012 break-in at Y-12 and the not-so-pleasant aftermath.

Gibbs’ book, however, is about much more than the break-in by peace activists and the turmoil that followed. It traces his career, from a time in the Air Force to his hiring as a security guard in Oak Ridge and much more. He has some great anecdotes in the book, such as his recollections about working as a security police officer at Y-12 — the nation’s primary repository for bomb-grade uranium.

Here’s an excerpt about his recollections of working as a security guard in the “material access areas” (MAAs) at Y-12, where highly enriched uranium was stored or processed for use in components for nuclear weapons. Continue reading

IG report: Y-12 didn’t respond properly to HEU incident

y12overviewAn Inspector general’s report released today says Y-12 didn’t properly handle a January 2014 incident in which small vials of bomb-grade uranium almost left the plant on a laundry truck.

The report says officials at the Oak Ridge plant took corrective actions, but they still didn’t address all of the issues — such as the delayed notification of the incident to the plant shift superintendent. Continue reading

If you want to purchase Steve Gibbs’ book

IMG_4683Former security official Steve Gibbs’ new book, “Behind the Blue Line: Protecting Our Nuclear Weapons Complex,” is available in paperback at $20. Gibbs is still developing his book plans, but he has a book signing planned Sept. 20, 1-5 p.m., at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge.

Gibbs can also be contacted via mail at P.O. Box 6412, Oak Ridge, Tn., 37831 or via email at

The 340-page book is subtitled, “My History in Oak Ridge from Guard to Senior Management.”

A Y-12 insider’s account of the July 28, 2012 security breach and what followed

IMG_4680Author Steve Gibbs, a former security executive at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, holds a copy of his new book, “Behind the Blue Line: Protecting Our Nuclear Weapons Complex.”

It was late-night Friday, July 27, 2012, and Steve Gibbs was too excited to go to sleep. He turned on the TV to watch the opening ceremonies for the summer Olympic Games in London.

Earlier in the evening, Oak Ridge security guards had ratified a new six-year contract, and Gibbs was a hero. As deputy general manager of security contractor Wackenhut Services, he had gone head to head with negotiators at the International Guards Union of America and come away with an agreement. Not only did it prevent an immediate strike at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, the six-year term meant the contract would expire at a different time than other key government plants — thus eliminating the potential for a multi-site security crisis in the future.

Gibbs was euphoric, receiving congratulatory calls or messages from Washington, D.C. to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (Wackenhut’s corporate headquarters). He finally went to bed around midnight but still couldn’t sleep. By the time he did, he was awakened by a 5 a.m. telephone call that killed his euphoria and changed his life. Three individuals, including an 82-year-old nun, had defied Y-12’s vaunted security, cut through fences and reached an off-limits area where they protested the plant’s weapons work with spray paint and human blood. Continue reading