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Never Been a Situation Like This': Elderly Activists Face Trial After Infiltrating, Vandalizing High-Security Nuclear Site

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"When a nuclear weapons facility can't stop infiltration by an octogenarian nun, it's time to reassess its security standards."

Activists Michael R. Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed, left to right, pose with banners in a picture taken days before the Y-12 break-in. (Photo via Knox News)

Over the weekend, the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. was infiltrated by three elderly "peace activists" who cut through a number of barbed wire fences to target the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, officials say.

Once the trio had access to the complex-- supposedly one of the most secure in the country-- they hung banners, spray-painted, and splashed what appeared to be human blood on the side of the building, according to reports.

63-year-old Michael Walli, 57-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed, and 82-year-old Sister Megan Rice (who is a nun) say they are part of the "Transform Now Plowshares," a movement that opposes the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.

And as the site where the Hiroshima bomb "Little Boy" was partially created, what better place to stage a protest?

Ellen Barfield, a supporter of the cause and friend of the defendants, explained: "People who are part of the Plowshares movement are extremely religious and spiritual people, who are completely against violence."

So why splash human blood on the building?  And how did they get it?

Barfield elaborated:

"There are people devoted to the cause who want to give their blood.  It is taken the standard way in standard blood bags...Pouring human blood is a symbol the beauty of life, but also a symbol of the horrific spilling of human and other blood that nuclear weapons represent."

[...]

"God, or the universe, or the spirit of peacemaking, who knows what it is...We know that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is against the law and it is certainly against God's law." [Emphasis added]

WBIR has more information (including an interview with the eccentric Barfield):

Peter Stockton, a nuclear security expert at the Project On Government Oversight, noted: "The Department of Energy has repeatedly claimed that security at the site, which houses 300 to 400 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium, is robust enough to defend against more than a dozen heavily-armed terrorists with inside knowledge of security procedures."

"[And] when a nuclear weapons facility can't stop infiltration by an octogenarian nun, it's time to reassess its security standards," Mia Steinle, an investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, added.

On Monday, the three were arraigned in federal district court where they appeared, according to witnesses, to be in extremely good spirits.

They reportedly said: "Yes, I understand the charge against me, and there should also be a charge against the U.S. Government..."

Their next court date is scheduled for Thursday, and, according to reports, they could face a year in jail and fines up to $100,000.

WATE has more information on the trial:

But how on earth were the aging activists able to infiltrate a nuclear facility that supposedly has enough defenses to withstand a terrorist attack?

"There's never been a situation like this before to my knowledge," Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration at Y-12 commented.

"I'm sure we'll learn from this, without question, and use what we learn to improve security," he assured.

Let's hope.

 

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