MAC: Mines and Communities

US anti-uranium protestors face 20 years in jail

Published by MAC on 2013-05-13
Source: PlanetArk (2013-05-10)

An 82-year old  nun and two other peace protestors face up to twenty years in prison after entering  the US Oak Ridge "high security" facility in Tennessee, and pouring blood on its walls.

Oak Ridge has, for many decades, been central to the United States's nuclear weapons programme and it's where the government's enriched uranium is stockpiled.

Sentencing set for activists who broke into Tennessee nuclear site

Preston Peeden

PlanetArk

10 May 2013

An elderly nun and two other peace activists will be sentenced in September on their convictions for damaging a Tennessee defense facility where enriched uranium for nuclear bombs is stored, a federal judge said on Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Amul Thapar also said he would decide on May 14 whether the three activists - Sister Megan Rice, who was 82 at the time of the incident, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed - will be held in custody until sentencing.

Thapar set sentencing for September 23 in Knoxville.

The activists were taken into custody after jurors found them guilty on Wednesday. They remained in custody after a short appearance in court on Thursday.

The activists, members of the Transform Now Plowshares group, admitted cutting fences and making their way across the grounds of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in July 2012, to paint slogans, pour blood and hammer on the walls of a building.

They were not discovered for several hours, embarrassing U.S. officials and prompting security changes at the facility.

Jurors deliberated for 2-1/2 hours on Wednesday before finding the trio guilty of damaging a defense facility under the sabotage act, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and causing more than $1,000 damage to government property, punishable by 10 years in prison.

Defense attorneys said the activists had taken part in a symbolic break-in that did not harm the facility, they had no intent to harm it, and the damage cost was overstated.

(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Scott Malone and John Wallace)


Nun, other activists face trial for breaching U.S. nuclear security

Preston Peeden

7 May 2013

An elderly nun and two other environmental activists who broke into a supposedly secure facility that stores enriched uranium for nuclear bombs go on trial on Tuesday over the incident that embarrassed the U.S. government.

Lawyers will present opening arguments in the case of the three activists charged with sabotage and destruction of government property after they cut through several fences in July to reach the heavily guarded Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

They admitted to walking for two hours through the complex, which prosecutors described as the "Fort Knox" of U.S. nuclear installations, and spray-painted slogans and hammered on the walls of an enriched uranium facility. Fort Knox is a heavily guarded U.S. military base in Kentucky where gold reserves are stored.

When a guard finally confronted the trio they offered him food and began singing.

The activists - Michael Walli, 64, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and nun Melissa Kirby, 83 - were in a Tennessee federal court on Monday as a jury was selected from among more than 70 people.

Walli wore a blue t-shirt that said "Ground the drones." The other two were not visible to journalists watching the proceedings on closed circuit television in a nearby courtroom.

The breach embarrassed the U.S. government and sparked investigations by Congress and the Energy Department, which oversees nuclear facilities.

An Energy Department inspector general report in August found "troubling displays of ineptitude" at the complex.

Shortly after the incident, the top security official at the National Nuclear Security Agency and two other federal officials were reassigned. In addition, top officials at WSI, the international security company that provided security at Oak Ridge, were removed and officers were fired, demoted or suspended.

Thomas D'Agostino, then the security agency administrator, said staff involved in the incident had been removed, cameras fixed, and patrolling and training improved.

In January, the security agency named a new group to manage security at the site, Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC. The group replaced Babcock & Wilcox Co, which had contracted some of security work to WSI, a unit of G4S.

Also that month D'Agostino stepped down, six months after the peace activists broke into Y-12. The agency said his departure had nothing to do with the breach.

The Oak Ridge facility is the primary U.S. site for processing and storage of enriched uranium and one of the primary manufacturing facilities for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

(Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Mohammad Zargham)

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