Ploughshares Makes Life Hell for Oak Ridge Nuke Plant

Y12Before dawn on Saturday, July 29, reports Frank Munger at his Knoxville News column Atomic City Underground,

“…three peace activists — including an 82-year-old nun — were able to sneak into the [Y12] nuclear defense installation [in Oak Ridge, Tennessee] and maneuver their way into the plant’s highest-security area, where work on nuclear warheads takes place and where the nation’s primary supply of bomb-grade uranium is housed. The trio, who labeled themselves the “Transform Now Plowshares,” reportedly used bolt-cutters to slip through high-security fences.

“Once inside the so-called Protected Area, they attached protest banners to the uranium storage site, splashed it with human blood and spray-painted slogans and messages on the walls.”

Of course, the groups intention wasn’t to show terrorists how it’s done or to, per se, shame the facility’s security — and 82-year-old nun! But (Munger again)

In an extraordinary effort to address growing security concerns following Saturday’s break-in by protesters at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, the government’s contractor shut down all plant nuclear operations, placed the stocks of enriched uranium in secure vaults, and set up a schedule for thousands of Y-12 workers to take refresher courses on security do’s and don’ts. …The shutdown of operations is expected to last about a week, but officials said that’s not been fully determined.

Some background on Ploughshares:

On September 9, 1980, the “Plowshares Eight” carried out the first of what have come to be known as plowshares actions. Eight peacemakers entered the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, where the nose cones from the Mark 12-A nuclear warheads were manufactured. With hammers and blood they enacted the biblical prophecies of Isaiah (2:4) and Micah (4:3) to “beat swords into plowshares” by hammering on two of the nose cones and pouring blood on documents. Thus, the name “plowshares” has been used to identify this action. The eight were subsequently arrested and tried by a jury, convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 1 ½ to 10 years. After a series of appeals that lasted 10 years, they were resentenced to time served—from several days to 17 ½ months.

As a disarmament advocate, I’ve long been in awe of the work Plowshares does. They not only dive headfirst into the legal system with significant risk of jail time, but what many don’t know is that they risk their lives. On Thursday, Munger wrote:

A federal spokesman at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant said it was fortunate that nobody was hurt or killed …. Steven Wyatt of the National Nuclear Security Administration said deadly force is authorized against those who enter the area without permission. “The protesters put themselves at a high risk of losing their life in performing this act,” Wyatt said.