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Project on Government Oversight

Department of Energy Must Address Security Concerns at Oak Ridge Nuclear Lab

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January 25, 2012

Statement of Peter Stockton, Senior Investigator, Project On Government Oversight

News reports that a private security contractor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory slept on the job just adds to a laundry list of security issues at the Tennessee facility that the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has been asking the Department of Energy (DOE) to address for seven years.

POGO’s investigations have revealed that the Oak Ridge Lab is at high risk, and cannot meet the government’s security standards. There’s a half a ton of Uranium 233—enough for roughly 250 improvised nuclear detonations—stored in an impossible-to-secure building.

Perhaps, the most egregious part of all this is that DOE is allowing Wackenhut, the security contractor, to investigate itself. It was Wackenhut that in 2007 initially denied that several of its guards at the Peach Bottom nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania were sleeping on the job—that is until the company was confronted with a video of the guards that was leaked to the media.

Any investigation that Wackenhut, or in this case its subsidiary WSI Oak Ridge, conducts will simply lack all credibility. (In 2002, Wackenhut was acquired by a Danish corporation and is now officially known in the U.S. as G4S Secure Solutions.)

We can only hope that this embarrassment will finally be the wake-up call that the DOE needs to take nuclear security at Oak Ridge seriously.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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