A group of protesters, including an 82-year old nun, broke into the only US government’s facility for enriching and storing weapons-grade uranium, smearing human blood on the walls of the unit where the nuclear bomb component is stored.
The facility, located in Tennessee, was shut down after it failed to keep out the trespassers. The private contractor responsible for its protection, WSI Oak Ridge, is a wing of the same company that failed to provide enough staff at the London Olympic Games. As a result, the British government was forced to deploy extra British Army troops.
Even though the three activists, who called themselves the Transform Now Plowshares, triggered security sensors when they cut their way through a protective chain-link fence, the security staff was unable to intercept them until they had reached the facility’s walls. When they were found, they had plastered the walls of the uranium storage unit with blood, banners and crime scene tape.
The activists claim they walked for “over two hours” to reach their destination. The group's members were aged 57, 63 and 82 years old, and still beat the security personnel to the walls of the facility.
They were charged with vandalism and criminal trespass – but they claim their crime was morally driven.
“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. It is a war crime,” said Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, in an interview with Reuters.
The trespassing incident is an embarrassment for the security firm, whose reputation has already dwindled after its mishap during the London Olympics. But this event, had it gone wrong, would have had much darker consequences, as the activist group made its way to a container holding radioactive material used in the cores of nuclear weapons.
“It is unbelievable this could happen,” said Peter Stockton, a former congressional investigator and security consultant to the Department of Energy. “The significance is outrageous. If they were terrorists, they could have blown open the door and got inside.”
The facility, which was supposedly ultra-secure, was the US government’s only warehouse for storing highly enriched uranium. Stockton called it the worst security breach he has ever seen. But instead of hiring more security personnel, the facility’s security service is simply providing its employees additional training.