Clean-up worker pleads guilty to nuclear theft at DOE site in Tennessee

Publish date: January 26, 2009

A former nuclear cleanup worker pleaded guilty yesterday to attempting to sell components stolen from a decommissioned uranium enrichment plant in Tennessee owned by the US Energy Department (DOE) , the Associated Press reported, Associated Press reported.

Under a plea agreement, Roy Lynn Oakley will be sentenced to six years in prison and three years of supervised release on one count of leaking classified information in breach of the Atomic Energy Act.

 Oakley, 67, could have faced a 20-year sentence if he had been convicted on the original two counts in the federal case, the AP said.

The plea deal specifies that Oakley stole six enrichment components that he was asked to dismantle at the former K-25 uranium enrichment plant in Oak Ridge. After Oakley unsuccessfully attempted to sell the equipment to France through its offices in Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the French government provided his name to the FBI. Investigators picked Oakley up when he tried to sell the parts to an undercover operative for $200,000.

“The Department of Justice’s highest priority is the protection of national security information, and that would include atomic secrets and matters related to atomic weapons,” Assistant US Attorney Will Mackie told the AP.
“The department is committed to running down any and every attempt to breach national security because, as we know in this world, this is a critical issue.”

The parts that Oakley stole included three 4-inch “barrier” tubes once used to isolate uranium’s weapon-capable isotope, Mackie added. “It is not something that we use currently, but it is something that could be used by other countries or organizations,” he said.

The Energy Department declined to address any specific security reforms made at the K-25 site since Oakley’s detainment, AP reported.

“At the time of the incident we did a full comprehensive review of our security and felt at that time as we do now that the security measures we have in place are more than adequate,” said aid John Shewairy, DOE spokesman at Oak Ridge, adding that the building that housed the stolen parts is scheduled for destruction in a matter of years.

Oakley’s sentencing is scheduled for May 14, said the news agency.

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