Almost five months ago, a group of peace activists pulled off an unprecedented security breach at the Y-12 national security complex.
As of this week, the first outer-perimeter fence the protesters cut through at Y-12 was still not repaired.
The six foot chain link fence marks the outer edge of Y-12 property. After cutting a more than four-foot hole in the fence, the protesters continued their journey to the Highly Enriched Uranium Processing Facility (HEUMF) where weapons-grade uranium is stored. Once there, they spray-painted messages and splashed blood on the outer wall of the building.
The journey by Greg Boertje-Obed, Michael Walli, and Megan Rice eventually led them to federal court where they were indicted on several felony counts of trespassing and destruction of property. Sister Rice is an 88-year-old Catholic nun.
Federal prosecutors presented photo evidence of the destruction to defense attorneys as part of the discovery process. The photo of the hole at the outer-perimeter fence was not recognized by the defendants.
"In looking at those photos, one of the defendants said, 'I don't think that's the place we went in.' The hole was at a different location," said Ralph Hutchison with the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance (OREPA).
Hutchison and another member of OREPA walked the edge of the fence earlier this week and took photos of the actual entry-point.
"The fence was cut about four and a half feet from the ground. They [the protesters] had made an effort to close the fence behind them with a twist-tie. That twist-tie was still hanging there, so we know it was the right location. Not only that, but it was a huge hole big enough for a person to go through," said Hutchison.
OREPA issued a press release Thursday that highlighted the lack of repairs. Y-12 has now patched the fence.
Federal NNSA spokesperson Steven Wyatt told 10News there would not be any on-camera interviews about the failure to repair the fence. He did address the issue by sending a written statement.
"The perimeter fence is a boundary marker and is posted against trespassers. It is not designed to prevent individuals from crossing it, and it is not considered a security measure. In some places it is six-foot chain link, in other places it is a four-foot barbed wire cattle fence. Fences of this type along site boundaries are common at DOE/NNSA facilities across the country and are in place as a method for notifying the public of a site boundary. The cut in the fence has been repaired," wrote Wyatt.
Hutchison said the physical hole in the fence is not his primary concern. Instead, he believes the lack of repairs exposes holes in B&W Y-12's ability to provide adequate security.
"They did this big stand-down and reviewed all security in August," said Hutchison. "This attempt to make sure we got security right now had failed to find and repair the most simple and fundamental thing of where is the hole in the fence. My belief is that this hole in the fence is just a red flag waving to say these people are incapable of handling and managing a complex and very important management job."
Hutchison said the fence serves as the same boundary line that protesters have crossed at the Y-12 entrance during peace demonstrations in the past.
"They [Y-12] can't have it both ways. They say this fence is just a property line and not a high security area. Protesters have made that argument that they were only on the property and not a threat to security in court before and the government prosecutors have argued against that vehemently. Several people, including some of the current defendants, have been sent to prison for crossing that line. That fence either means everything just like the main entrance line or it means nothing."
The three defendants in the July 2012 break-in are set to stand trial in U.S. District Court this upcoming May.