A noose found June 3 on the site of a $6.5-billion federal uranium processing construction site has prompted a $200,000 reward from the North America's Building Trades Unions of the alleged racial incident at the U.S. Energy Dept. Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tenn. Site officials discovered the noose in a lightly trafficked area of the project and removed it immediately, according to a site spokesperson.
An FBI investigation of the incident also has begun, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) tweeted on June 10 and he expects the results of the report to be made public.
In addition to conducting an internal investigation, project contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS), led by Bechtel National Inc., says it has "increased inspections of work areas" and pledges to "take immediate and severe action toward any employee or subcontractor" involved.
Upon joining the national security project, "craft personnel receive diversity training in context of the company’s Business Code of Conduct, along with training in prevention of workplace harassment and violence, and recognizing inappropriate conduct," says Jason Bohne, CNS senior director of communications. After onboarding, craft personnel must also complete annual requalification training for Business Code of Conduct and biannual requalification training for prevention of workplace harassment, he says.
In a statement posted to its website announcing the cash reward on June 17, the building trades called the incident a "hateful act of intimidation."
“As we promote a safe and harassment-free workplace, neither NABTU nor its affiliates will condone any act of violence or racist behavior on our jobsites," said the union umbrella group, adding that it is working with local law enforcement and state and local Building and Construction Trades Councils to "identify and bring those responsible to justice.”
Nooses and alleged hate crimes. including racist graffiti at construction projects, have come into focus in the last year. In March, a worker on a data center project for Facebook parent company Meta in Utah was fired after admitting to tying a noose at the worksite where racist graffiti had also been found months earlier.
A Washington Post analysis last year found that there had been 55 nooses reported at 40 worksites in construction and in other business sectors since 2015, but said perpetrators are rarely caught.
Bechtel-led CNS is the Y-12 site management contractor, a consortium that also includes Leidos, ATK Launch Systems and SOC LLC, with Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. as a teaming subcontractor.
The team, which has operated the Y-12 complex and the Pantex site in Texas for DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration under a combined contract, had been set to leave the site in March in a contract award change announced last year. But DOE cancelled the award in May to Fluor, extended the CNS site management contract and now is reprocuring management of Y-12 and Pantex sites as separate contracts.
Construction of the Uranium Processing Facility project, set to replace by late 2025 a World War II-era structure, supports “the long-term viability, safety, and security of enriched uranium capabilities in the U.S.” says NNSA.