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US nuclear administration to review Nevada assault complaint

January 31, 2019
FILE - In this May 17, 2007, file photo, private security officers and instructors gather to prepare for paramilitary training at the Nevada Test Site in Mercury, Nev., about 65 miles from Las Vegas. The U.S. government's nuclear security administration said Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, it will review the handling of a sexual harassment and assault complaint that a security guard at the Nevada National Security Site made against her colleagues. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The U.S. government’s nuclear security administration said Thursday it will review the handling of a sexual harassment and assault complaint that a security guard at the Nevada National Security Site made against her colleagues.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Darwin Morgan said in an emailed statement that the guard’s allegations detailed in a Jan. 25 New York Times article “are unacceptable and clearly not in keeping with NNSA’s high standards of personal conduct.”

Morgan said the administration could not directly comment on the security guard’s allegations that she was harassed, assaulted and ultimately fired for reporting the incidents. But he said the administration is “taking a close look” at the whether the contracted security firms that the guard worked for handled the complaint appropriately.

The review follows a letter Nevada’s two U.S. senators sent Thursday to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry demanding an investigation.

Democratic Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto called the allegations in the article “unacceptable” and “disturbing.”

They asked Perry to review the woman’s allegations and to make a broader review of sexual assault or harassment by employees and contractors at the Nevada site and all other Energy Department facilities.

The 1,360-square-mile (3,520-square-kilometer) Nevada site, where the nation’s atomic bombs were once detonated, is still used as a testing, research and training site for the U.S. government as it studies nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological and other weapons.

In the New York Times report, the guard detailed a November 2017 training exercise in a smoke-filled room where she said several of her fellow guards struck her in the face with her own rifle and sexually assaulted her before disappearing.

The woman was unable to identify her attackers but knew they were fellow guards, the newspaper reported. She said she faced months of sexual harassment leading up to and following the attack.

An investigation by the contracted security firm found the woman’s allegations did not amount to unlawful harassment or a company policy violation but fired her for scheduling infractions and “hostility and aggression.”

An emailed message seeking comment from Centerra, the contractor that the woman worked for in October 2017, was not returned Thursday.

SOC, a security firm that took over Centerra’s contract and became the woman’s employer until her firing, told the New York Times that that its article was inaccurate but that the company was working to transform a culture that existed under its predecessor.

An emailed message seeking comment from SOC spokeswoman Holly Holt was not immediately returned Thursday.

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