Noose found on $6.5B federal uranium processing jobsite in Tennessee

Dive Brief:

  • An employee found a hangman’s noose at the $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility construction site at the Y‑12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, company officials confirmed to Construction Dive.
  • The federal project’s contractor, Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC, a consortium that’s majority-owned by Reston, Virginia-based Bechtel, said the noose was immediately removed and it is investigating. In a statement, the firm pledged “severe action” against the perpetrator.  
  • Knoxville’s TV station ABC 6 reported that U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) said the FBI is investigating. Cooper’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Construction Dive. An FBI spokesperson said the agency was aware of the incident, and in regular contact with local authorities. 

Dive Insight:

CNS spokesperson Jason Bohne told Construction Dive that the consortium is committed to providing employees with a work environment that is free of harassment, intimidation, retaliation and discrimination. 

“A noose blatantly violates our policies and work rules and will not be tolerated. We are conducting an extensive internal investigation, have increased inspections of work areas and have notified the appropriate authorities,” he said in an email. “We will take immediate and severe action toward any employee or subcontractor who is determined to have been involved in the incident.” 

CNS did not respond as to whether it is offering a reward, a common practice among contractors investigating these kinds of incidents. Last year, for example, Amazon and contractor RC Andersen offered a $100,000 reward for information about multiple nooses placed on an Amazon fulfillment center construction site in Connecticut. The FBI was asked to investigate.

The Department of Energy’s Y‑12 National Security Complex, located near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was originally built as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II. The overhaul of the Uranium Processing Facility (pictured above) is slated for completion in 2025, according to Bechtel. In March, the National Nuclear Security Administration announced all buildings at the complex had reached the milestone of being “dried in,” or enclosed.

Leidos, ATK Launch Systems and SOC LLC are also listed as members of the group on the CNS website, with Booz Allen Hamilton as a teaming subcontractor.

Industry action

Nooses on construction sites gained attention in the construction industry after the murder of George Floyd two years ago. Construction Dive documented more than 20 nooses and other racist incidents on jobsites in 2020 alone.

The number and prevalence of racist events seemed to have abated somewhat in 2021 and the first half of this year, according to media reports, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and data tracked by Turner Construction, the country’s top contractor by revenue.

The industry has taken steps to fight hate on jobsites. The Associated General Contractors’ Culture of Care campaign has contractors pledge to make jobsites free from harassment, hazing and bullying. Last year, six major contractors, including Turner, Mortenson and Gilbane, launched the inaugural Construction Inclusion Week to combat hate in the industry.

Still, during a recent hearing on the prevalence of discrimination in construction in light of $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure funding, EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said nooses on construction jobsites had become “chillingly common.”

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