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82-Year-Old Nun Breaks Into Nuclear Facility, Contractors Blamed 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-read-the-headline-again dept.
Lasrick writes "Private security contractors strike again, this time at the Y-12 National Security Complex. A nun, a gardener, and a housepainter cut through three security fences to find themselves 20 feet away from highly dangerous nuclear material. And of course, only one guard has been fired (the one who arguably acted the bravest and did the right thing). A Department of Energy report (PDF) on the incident found 'troubling displays of ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures to maintain critical 2 security equipment, over reliance on compensatory measures, misunderstanding of security protocols, poor communications, and weaknesses in contract and resource management.' The contractors have been put on notice, (PDF), but they still have the contracts."
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82-Year-Old Nun Breaks Into Nuclear Facility, Contractors Blamed

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  • Re:OK, seriously ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:36PM (#41530441) Homepage

    This is hardly the first time that a low-level employee has unfairly taken the rap for the mistakes / sleaze of upper management.

    Consider, for instance, Richard Jewell [wikipedia.org], who discovered a pipe bomb at the Atlanta Olympics, saved the lives of a couple hundred people, and then had his name dragged through the mud by journalists who'd decided that he'd planted the bomb himself (he hadn't).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @03:40PM (#41530505)

    If security is this lax in the US, what's it like in other countries long forgotten stockpiles?

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @04:59PM (#41531543)

    Friend of a friend was a hacker who got that dream job: Security compliance at the Texas nuclear plants.

    After he:
    1) Fooled them into letting him in by carrying a box and asking them to hold the door.
    2) Punched into a secure room by going through two sheets of sheetrock.
    3) Punched into a "steel clad" area by showing the "steel" was easily cut with a hacksaw.
    4) climbed out of the "man trap" within 30 seconds of being "trapped"
    5) fooled employees into giving various passwords and access to secure areas..

    and a half dozen other weaknesses...

    They posted his PICTURE and told employees to be sure to keep an eye out for the security compliance guy.

    They didn't really want to fix the problems.

    Nuke plants are apparently mostly security through obscurity and bluffing.

  • by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @08:51PM (#41533491) Homepage

    Speaking as a former U.S. Marine *and* as a current contractor working in and around nuclear power facilities, I sincerely hope you're just joking. The idea that you consider Marines "trigger happy" is highly offensive. We're trained very rigorously to *not* be trigger happy in the first place. We're not some bloodthirsty gang out to slaughter women and babies for the fun of it. If you've never served then I suppose it seems funny as hell to pretend that we are, but any professional Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman will tell you we do our damndest not to hurt innocents, even the point of getting maimed for life or killed in the process. Please try to show a little respect for that. And no, we're not victims looking for pity. Every one of us volunteered knowing what we were getting into.

    Regarding the security at a nuclear facility, I've seen Y-12. The guards are armed but the rules are pretty strict about shooting at stuff. You can be quick to shoot and more likely than not you'll make the evening news killing some teens playing a prank. Cue the pacifists, the anti-nuke protesters, the anti-military groups, and every other bleeding heart group out there for a PR debacle in progress. Or you don't shoot on sight and you end up with nuns, gardeners, and what-have-you painting bible verses on your walls. Personally, I'd rather have a red face for the activists showing off than have to live with killing civilians by mistake.

    Yes, the cameras being down is pretty pathetic. However, cutting through a few fences and banging on walls is a *LONG* way from stealing something like highly-enriched uranium. Last week I was walking 20 feet away from a nuclear reactor containment building, but there's no way in hell I could've gotten into it and I'm *authorized* to be on the site in the first place. Any bomb that's man-portable would have a hard time breaching any of these structures containing nuclear material. And if the goal was to steal a usable amount of nuclear material, any terrorist would have a helluva time getting away with stuff because it's heavy, dangerous, and stored in some pretty amazing containers.

    If you want to throw stones, find out who is responsible for the security equipment budget at these sites and why those cameras were down for six months. Of course, what you might find is the cameras were down because getting a *permit* to get work done at a nuclear site is beyond ridiculous. I'm being quoted a 6-12 month permitting period just to get a breaker panel put in for network expansion. That's 6-12 months of waiting on paperwork so a job that will take 1-2 days can get done. Yes, it's that bad, so maybe the cameras being down wasn't really the fault of the security group.

  • Re:I'm confused... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pseudonym (62607) on Tuesday October 02, 2012 @09:25PM (#41533707)

    Corporate bureaucracy tends to be deranged in worse ways than state bureaucracy.

    My experience, having worked in both, is that this is 100% correct.

    State bureaucracy tends to be incompetent, and its principal failure mode is failing to do anything and coming up with excuses why it never does anything. Corporate bureaucracy, by contrast, tends to be nefarious, and its principal failure mode is committing pure distilled evil and covering up for said evil.

    If I had to, I know which one I'd pick.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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