break-in at tennessee nuclear facility was politically motivated, not just a security breach

by Tim Phillips

The Y-12 nuclear facility, where the U.S. keeps enough highly enriched uranium for thousands of nuclear weapons, was supposed to be one of the most secure sites in the world. Yet on July 28, three pacifists at the facility achieved the biggest security breach in the history of the U.S. atomic complex. Sister Megan Rice, 82, Michael Walli, 63, and Gregory Boertje-Obed, 57, went through three fences with bolt cutters, splashed human blood on the new building where enriched uranium is stored, and spray-painted antiwar slogans.

For trespassing and destroying government property, federal prosecutors charged each of them with two felonies and one misdemeanor, which together carry penalties of up to 16 years in prison and up to $600,000 in fines. They pled not guilty and their trial is set for October 10.

While media coverage has focused to a large degree on the security breach, the activists broke into the facility to publicize threats related to nuclear weapons, not the facility’s vulnerability. According to their communiqué,

This program is an ongoing criminal endeavor in violation of international treaty law binding on the United States… For the sake of the whole human family threatened by nuclear weapons, and for the sake of our Planet Earth, which is abused and violated, we indict the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapon facility and all government officials, agencies, and contractors as responsible for perpetuating these war crimes.