|Activists break into US nuke bomb storage
The US government's only facility for handling, processing and storing weapons-grade uranium has been temporarily shut after anti-nuclear activists, including an 82-year-old nun, breached security fences, government officials said yesterday.
WSI Oak Ridge, the contractor responsible for protecting the facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is owned by the international security firm G4S, which was at the center of a dispute over security at the London Olympic Games, Reuters reports.
Officials said the facility was shut down on Wednesday at least until next week after three activists cut through perimeter fences to reach the outer wall of a building where highly enriched uranium, a key nuclear bomb component, is stored.
The activists painted slogans and threw what they said was human blood on the wall of the facility, one of numerous buildings in the facility known by the code name Y-12 that it was given during World War Two, officials said.
While moving between the perimeter fences, the activists triggered sensors that alerted security personnel. But officials conceded the intruders were still able to reach the building's walls before security personnel got to them.
Ellen Barfield, a spokeswoman for the activists who called themselves ‘Transform Now Plowshares,’ said three were arrested and charged with vandalism and criminal trespass. She said the three, identified as Megan Rice, 82, Michael Walli, 63 and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, were being held in custody and appeared for a hearing before a US magistrate judge in Knoxville, Tennessee. A detention hearing is set for the afternoon today. The trial date is October 9.
Barfield forwarded a statement from the group in which it said the activists had passed through four fences and walked for “over two hours'' before reaching the uranium storage building, on which they hung banners and strung crime-scene tape.
Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said the group's intention was not to demonstrate the lack of security at the plant, but to take a stance against the making of 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.''