Nuclear Lab Employee Arrested for Allegedly Attempting to Sell Secrets

Contract worker is accused of trying to sell information to undercover agent.

ByABC News
July 19, 2007, 11:44 AM

July 19, 2007 — -- A contract worker at the Oak Ridge Reservation nuclear research complex has been arrested and charged with stealing and trying to sell highly classified nuclear equipment.

The two count federal indictment, unsealed Thursday afternoon, alleges Roy Lynn Oakley, 67, had possession of materials associated with uranium enrichment, and "having reason to believe that such data would be utilized to injure the United States and secure and advantage to a foreign nation, did communicate, transmit, and disclose such data to another person."

Sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News that Oakley, a former low-level employee of contract firm Bechtel Jacobs – which declined to comment for this story – contacted the French Embassy to inquire about selling his goods. The French contacted U.S. officials to alert them to the alleged scheme.

Oakley reportedly thought he was selling the materials to a foreign operative, but the government said he was actually selling it to U.S. undercover agent.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said in a statement, "None of the stolen equipment was ever transmitted to a foreign government or terrorist organization."

Oakley's attorney Herb Moncier downplayed his client's actions, suggesting Oakley was not tying to harm the United States. Moncier called the materials "broken rods that were going to be thrown away."

Moncier also said of the alleged attempted deal, "We are dealing with a friendly nation."

Oakley had worked for the contractor at the East Tennessee Technology Park, a uranium enrichment cleanup site. That facility's gaseous diffusion capabilities were utilized during the Manhattan Project to enrich uranium for use in weapons production. The Manhattan Project produced the world's first nuclear bomb.

Oak Ridge site manager Gerald Boyd said Thursday that the Department of Energy is "currently decontaminating and decommissioning" ETTP buildings, saying they "were last used in 1985."

"Unfortunately, there are some who make unfortunate choices and abuse the trust given to them," said Boyd, "and this case demonstrates the importance of federal coordination and the need for ongoing vigilance."

Sources emphasize that the public was never in danger, but acknowledge that the case represents a major breach and raises serious questions about the security at some of the nation's most sensitive nuclear installations.

"The FBI should be congratulated for their role in thwarting this situation. However, a series of troubling security breaches show that the nuclear weapons complex simply does not take security as seriously as it should," Peter Stockton said in a statement. Stockton is an investigator for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, and also served as an advisor to then-Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.

This latest incident comes on the heels of a security breach at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory in the fall.

In that case, a contract employee at the lab took classified documents and computer files home with her. The materials were discovered only after authorities searched her home on a separate matter a domestic disturbance-call-turned-methamphetamine-lab raid.

The former employee at the center of the Los Alamos breakdown pleaded guilty to knowingly removing classified information from the national security research laboratory in May.

Nuclear lab security has been scrutinized after several embarrassing breaches at other government-run nuclear facilities.

Also at the Los Alamos National Lab, a weapons scientist was accused of stealing nuclear weapons secrets in 1999. He later pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information.