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America’s nuclear-weapons sites vulnerable to terrorism – pacifist activists demonstrate this

Break-In at Y-12 How a handful of pacifists and nuns exposed the vulnerability of America’s nuclear-weapons sites .New Yorker, BY ERIC SCHLOSSER , 9 March 15
“…….The origins of the Plowshares movement can be traced to the work of Dorothy Day…
…..she devoted the rest of her life to the practice of a new kind of American Catholicism—one that was uncompromising in its service to the homeless, its opposition to state power, its resistance to all forms of violence and war….
By the late nineteen-forties, America’s growing anxiety about nuclear weapons revived interest in Day’s pacifism. She had condemned the use of atomic bombs against Japan, calling it a “colossal slaughter of the innocents.” The possibility of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union gave new urgency to a movement seeking to make war obsolete. …….
The threat of nuclear terrorism has been a concern since the early days of the atomic era. During a closed Senate hearing in 1946, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, was asked whether three or four people could smuggle into New York City the parts necessary to build a nuclear weapon. “Of course it could be done,” he said, and it would be almost impossible to prevent. “The only instrument that would enable an inspector to find out if a packing crate contained an atomic bomb is a screwdriver.” For most of the Cold War, however, nuclear threats from outside the United States seemed more pressing than those which might emerge within it.

According to Matthew Bunn, a nuclear-security expert and a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, during the nineteen-fifties and sixties “the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) literally imposed no rules at all concerning how private companies with weapons-usable nuclear material had to secure such stocks.” The A.E.C. assumed that the financial value of the fissile material would encourage companies to safeguard it carefully. That wasn’t the case. For decades, plutonium was shipped across the United States without armed guards. In 1972, the terrorist attack on the Munich Olympics prompted much tougher federal oversight of fissile materials. The subsequent rise of international terrorism and the 9/11 attacks tightened the security even further. And yet, until the opening of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, in 2010, tons of weapons-grade uranium were still being stored at Y-12 in a wooden building constructed during the Manhattan Project.

The traditional reliance on “guns, gates, and guards” for nuclear security may overlook a serious vulnerability at nuclear sites: the insider threat…….

The Plowshares action at Y-12 attracted international attention. The fact that an eighty-two-year-old nun had broken into a high-security nuclear-weapons complex seemed unbelievable. But to some people familiar with the security arrangements at Y-12 the intrusion was the logical result of mismanagement that had plagued the facility for years..…..

Kirby had asked, “What do you think about what they do at Y-12?”

“I think with sadness that they are making a huge amount of money,” Sister Megan said.

Walli, Boertje-Obed, and Sister Megan were convicted by the jury on all counts. The three were now classified as violent offenders, because of the conviction for attacking government property. They were handcuffed, shackled, and led from the courtroom to jail…….


the walls of the penitentiary guarding this pacifist were taller and more impenetrable than any of the fences at Y-12. ♦

March 7, 2015 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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