always a hot topic at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant -
or so it seems. Even though plant guards last year
approved a new contract with Wackenhut, the government's
security contractor, there are still issues and
Some security police don't believe they're as well
equipped as their counterparts at other federal nuclear
facilities, such as the Savannah River Site in South
Y-12 has a highly trained and capable tactical
response team, but one guard said there are still
missing capabilities - such as an anti-sniper team - in
Oak Ridge. There are weapons needs, as well, he said.
Outside expertise has to be borrowed from local
police operations under various agreements, and that
doesn't sit well with guards who think Y-12's national
security operations should be all-inclusive.
Some folks weren't happy with the response earlier
this year when a too-drunk-to-care man from out of state
drove his car into Y-12 at 3 a.m. one Saturday. The car
reportedly blew past a security checkpoint and then
created a standoff situation until Oak Ridge police came
and arrested the guy.
One plant guard suggested the situation could have
been a nightmare if - for example - the car had been
loaded with explosives.
However, Bill Brumley, the top federal official at
Y-12, and Sharon Daly, his security chief, said they
were comfortable with the way the "unfortunate"
situation was handled.
"Our job is to protect national security," Brumley
said. "We don't shoot people just because they go
through a portal."
The biggest concern was the young man did not respond
to security commands, but after determining the driver
was drunk, it was a matter of waiting for local police
to make the arrest, he said.
Brumley and Daly also insisted the Oak Ridge
facilities are not under-equipped.
"I think our response capabilities are very
comparable (to Savannah River and other nuclear
installations)," Brumley said.
Another issue raised by guards was the recent
acquisition of Wackenhut by a Danish firm.
Department of Energy spokesman Steven Wyatt said the
ownership change won't affect Wackenhut's security
contract in Oak Ridge.
"I'm told they are organized in such a fashion that
this should not be a problem," Wyatt said. "But we are
doing an FOCI (Foreign Ownership Control and Influence)
review to ensure there is no problem."
UPDATING HISTORY: Funds are tight at Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, but communications chief Billy
Stair managed to get enough money to update the exhibits
at the Graphite Reactor.
A little rehab was woefully needed at the historic
reactor, one of the most popular tourist attractions in
the Atomic City.
Some of the poster exhibits were simply out of date
and did not properly reflect ORNL activities or
missions. Plus, the reactor rooms were in need of some
Indeed, Stair amplified that point to lab management
with photo evidence of dead insects, which,
unfortunately, seemed to have congregated en masse in
one visitation area.
The Graphite Reactor, designated a national historic
landmark in 1966, has been neglected in recent years.
ORNL spokeswoman Marty Goolsby said the last updating
took place in 1992 - when the laboratory celebrated its
New information displays are being produced and will
be installed at the entrance and in the reactor's
exhibit room. Workers also are sprucing up the place
with a bit of paint and other repairs.
LABOR FRONT: Construction workers continue to picket
the entrances to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to
protest hiring practices at the three-building
construction project under way there.
The Knoxville Building and Construction Trades
Council is unhappy because the project managers have
refused to commit to hiring union workers or local
workers for the project.
Because the modernization project is privately
financed, lab officials have insisted that the hiring
practices fall outside the work agreement in place for
federally funded projects. They said they expect a mix
of union and nonunion workers to be employed.
That stated policy is still the same, but Ray
Whitehead, president of the construction labor council,
said there have been changes made since the protests
Now there are two subcontractors in place hiring
local bargaining-unit workers, Whitehead said.
"Prior to the protest, there were no local
contractors with a history of performing work under the
bargaining unit out there," he said.
The situation is better than it was but not what it
could be, Whitehead said.
Even with the Spallation Neutron Source and other big
projects under way on the Oak Ridge reservation, the
construction workforce is only about half what it was in
the late 1980s, the labor leader said.
Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Department of
Energy for the News-Sentinel. He can be reached at
865-482-9213 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column
is also available on the Web at