Nuke ops halted after protesters enter TN complex

Nuclear operations were temporarily halted Wednesday at a Tennessee complex that stores and processes uranium after three protesters, including a nun, were able to intrude into a high-security area over the weekend. The Y-12 National Security Complex said all nuclear material is safe.

The temporary stand-down was expected to end by next week. Special nuclear material will be moved to vaults on site, and contractor security personnel will undergo training and refresher instruction.

The protesters were found hanging banners in the dark and singing on Saturday and offering to break bread with the security guards at the Oak Ridge complex, officials said. They were arrested.

The nuclear complex regularly gets protesters and activists to the site around the August anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

The National Nuclear Security Administration's Production Office is responsible for oversight of both B&W and WSI Oak Ridge, which provides the personnel that makes up the Y-12 Protective Force. WSI-Oak Ridge said last month it planned to cut as many as 51 jobs, including about 34 security police officer positions at the complex.

According to its website, Y-12 maintains the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. It also provides nuclear fuel for the Navy and for research reactors worldwide.

Those arrested on federal trespassing charges were Megean Rice, 82, a Roman Catholic nun; Greg Boertje-Obed, 57; and Michael Walli, 63.

The protesters called themselves "Transform Now Plowshares," but there is no known Plowshares national protest group.

The nuclear safety administration said in a statement that the changes were aimed at addressing security deficiencies identified after what happened Saturday.

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the NNSA at Oak Ridge, declined to be more specific on those deficiencies.

"However, all nuclear materials at Y-12 are in safe, secure storage and we remain entirely confident in the security of Y-12's facilities," the agency said in a statement.

Wyatt said he was not aware if more protesters were coming this weekend, but they would be able to respond to any protests.