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Illegal immigrants worked at nuclear weapons facility

But Department of Energy report says nothing was compromised

From Michael McManus
CNN Washington Bureau


Department of Energy
National Nuclear Security Administration

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sixteen illegal immigrants last year worked on construction at one of the most sensitive weapons sites in the country, according to a report issued Monday by the Department of Energy's inspector general.

The inspector general's investigation found the illegal immigrants were construction workers on jobs at the Y-12 National Security Complex near Knoxville, Tennessee.

The workers used "false documents" and "gained access to the ... site on multiple occasions," the report said.

The report details how the workers, apparently using fake green cards, were able to obtain access badges.

"This situation represented a potentially serious access control and security problem," the report said.

According to the report, the inquiry brought field agents to the plant who found "official use only" documents "lying unprotected in a construction trailer, which was accessed by the foreign construction workers."

The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees nuclear weapons facilities for the Energy Department, said in the report no evidence was found that the workers had access to any of those documents.

"No classified information was compromised as a result of this situation," said Steven Wyatt of the National Nuclear Safety Administration on CNN's "American Morning."

"We took prompt action and resolved it and we have new controls in place," he added.

Those controls include the required use of birth certificates and passports for all uncleared visitors and workers to the site, Wyatt explained.

The inspector general, Gregory Friedman, also found that although security was compromised, access controls at the plant have since been tightened.

And he found no evidence that classified or sensitive information was compromised.

Wyatt refused to disclose the nationalities of the workers in question.

"For one thing we just don't know, and I don't think it would be appropriate to touch on that," he said.

Wyatt admitted the situation was a little "embarrassing" but said his agency is pleased that the problem has been addressed.

A January 2004 report by the inspector general found that an exercise to test preparedness against a terrorist attack at the Y-12 complex was compromised when guards got a peek at the plans.

The report further said there was "compelling" evidence that security tests have been manipulated since the mid-1980s.

The Y-12 National Security Complex -- approximately 600 buildings over 811 acres -- was established along with the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the world's first nuclear weapon.

Both are situated on the 33,750-acre Oak Ridge Reservation that is home to a number of Department of Energy science and technology programs. About 13,000 contractor employees work at the Oak Ridge facilities.

Several sensitive activities take place at the Y-12 plant, including the warehousing of enriched uranium and the dismantlement and storage of weapons. The site was being tested to see if it could defend against potential security incidents.

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