Nel's New Day

August 5, 2012

Nun Closes Down U.S. Nuclear Facility

The nun’s bus tour may be over, but one 82-year-old nun is still in the news. Megan Rice was one of three activists who succeeded in temporarily closing “The Atomic City,” the U.S. government’s only facility for handling, processing, and storing weapons-grade uranium. They cut through perimeter fences at the facility at Oak Ridge (TN) and reached the wall of a building where highly enriched uranium, a key nuclear bomb component, is stored. The activists triggered security sensors but were still able to get through four fences and walk for “over two hours” before reaching the uranium storage building.

The security breach occurred nine days ago, but the shutdown, which applies to “all nuclear operations” at the site, didn’t start until five days later. Rice and her two co-conspirators Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, were held in custody before Rice and Walli were released after a three-and-a-half-hour hearing in Knoxville (TN) last Friday. Boertje-Obed waived his right to a detention hearing and remains in jail. A hearing or arraignment is set for this coming Thursday, and the trial is set for October 9.

Their purpose was not to show how weak security was at the facility. Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said the three of them intended to take a stand against nuclear weapons. “It wasn’t so they could show how easy it was to bust into this bomb plant, it was because the production of nuclear weapons violates everything that is moral and good,” Hutchinson said. “It is a war crime.”

Despite their intent, their actions did show the weakness of the place’s security. The private contractor responsible for protecting the facility, WSI Oak Ridge, is a subsidiary of the world’s biggest security firm G4S. That’s the same company which caused the British military to fill in for security when the company failed to provide 3,500 of the guaranteed 10,400 security guards for the Olympic Games in London. Mitt Romney, a strong supporter of privatization in all areas, criticized the quality of security for the Olympics while he was in London.

Conservatives who want to turn all government functions over to the private sector might want to observe the weakness of this philosophy.  Or perhaps an 82-year-old nun is stronger and smarter than any terrorist in the world.

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