The Paducah Sun

October 28, 1999

Union: Security should be increased

By Bill Bartleman
The Paducah Sun

The potential for terrorism or sabotage at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant has not been compromised by changes in the security force, according to Howard Pulley, United States Enrichment Corp. plant manager.

But John Driskill, local president of the union that represents 37 plant guards, disagrees. He thinks more guards should be hired and the level of security should return to the days when it was a highly classified operation because it helped to make atomic bombs.

Driskill said his safety concerns grew last week when a U.S. Department of Energy investigative team revealed in public documents that high-level radioactive material that could cause a criticality, or nuclear accident, is present at 11 locations inside the plant.

He said details in the report on the first phase of an investigation into conditions at the plant are "an open book" to anyone with a desire to sabotage the plant.

"The DOE Phase 1 report clearly outlines the radiological and toxicological hazards that exist at our plant," Driskill said. "The report goes into some detail as to how to make the plant safe from radiological and toxicological accidents. What consideration has been given to the prevention of radiological and toxicological sabotage ... (that might produce) a criticality?"

He said the potential for sabotage has grown in recent years because of the number of workers allowed in sensitive areas who have not gone through the same kind of extensive background checks that were required in the past. Some of the employees work for the Department of Energy, some for USEC, and others for subcontractors doing cleanup and construction work.

Although a full background check is not done on those employees, some aspects of their background is checked, such as citizenship.

Also, Driskill said the number of escorts who accompany and monitor the movement of uncleared workers has been reduced in recent years, increasing the potential for uncleared workers to enter restricted areas.

Pulley maintains that those security concerns are constantly monitored and evaluated. He said he has met with Driskill to discuss the union chief's concerns.

"I believe the level of security is sufficient," Pulley said. "We are committed to maintaining the level of security that is necessary."

He said some aspects of security were changed when USEC took over the production operations. He said the level of patrols outside the main fenced areas is not as extensive as it was in the past, but he said security is not threatened.

Although the guards work for USEC, they also do security for areas of the facility that are under DOE control.

Driskill, however, said fewer patrols means some private citizens are entering areas of DOE property where the levels of contamination are high.

Driskill would like the security force to be increased to at least 44 guards. At that level, he said, they could patrol DOE areas outside the security fence and allow for guards to receive more training.

He also wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's classification of the plant raised, citing the sensitivity of the enrichment technology and the potential for terrorism. It is currently a Category III facility, meaning it requires only limited security measures.

The NRC said the plant meets the criteria for a Category III classification because it doesn't include large amounts of highly radioactive material. Robert Pierson, branch chief of special projects for NRC, said security at the plant is sufficient for its mission.