A group of protesters, aged 57, 63 and 82 years, broke into the U.S. government's only facility for enriching and storing weapons-grade uranium in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The facility was shut down, after it failed to keep out the three trespassers.
Even though the three activists, who call themselves the Transform Now Plowshares, triggered security sensors when they cut their way through three protective chain-link fences, security staff were unable to intercept them, until they had reached the facility’s walls.
When security staff found the trio, they had plastered the walls of the uranium storage unit with blood, banners and crime scene tape.
According to the three activists, they had walked for "over two hours" to reach the facility. Despite this fact, plus their ages of 57, 63 and 82 years, they still managed to beat security personnel.
While the trio were moving between the perimeter fences, they 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.
Apparently the facility is protected by WSI Oak Ridge - their mission according to their website is, "To protect the National Security Interests of the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration in Oak Ridge."
Seems they failed.
The three activists were charged with vandalism and criminal trespass. However, they state that their crime was morally driven:
Ralph Hutchinson, coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance told Reuters, “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.”
Peter Stockton, a former congressional investigator and security consultant to the Department of Energy said, “It is unbelievable this could happen. The significance is outrageous. If they were terrorists, they could have blown open the door and got inside.”
The facility is supposed to be ultra-secure, and is the U.S. government's only warehouse storing highly enriched uranium. Stockton stated that this was the worst security breach he had ever seen. However, he added that instead of hiring more security personnel, the facility will be providing its employees with additional training.
Sister Megan Rice, 82-years-old, joined by Michael Walli (63) and Greg Boertje-Obed (57), were held in custody and appeared for a hearing before a U.S .magistrate judge in Knoxville, Tennessee. The date for their trial has been set as October 9th.
On an interesting note, it seems that WSI Oak Ridge is a subsidiary of the international security firm G4S, the same firm who drew criticism for failing to provide adequate security for the 2012 London Olympic Games.