Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Nun Sentenced to Almost 3 Years for Nuclear Facility Protest

A trio of anti-nuclear activists on Tuesday received varying prison sentences for their July 2012 break-in at Tennessee's Y-12 highly enriched uranium facility. They are from left to right: Michael Walli, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed. A trio of anti-nuclear activists on Tuesday received varying prison sentences for their July 2012 break-in at Tennessee's Y-12 highly enriched uranium facility. They are from left to right: Michael Walli, Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed. (Transform Now Plowshares photo)

An octogenarian nun on Tuesday was sentenced to nearly three years behind bars for breaking into a U.S. nuclear-weapons site and staging a protest.

Megan Rice's two cohorts in the July 2012 trespassing at the Y-12 National Security Complex, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli, received longer prison sentences of more than five years, partially because they had longer track records of civil disobedience, the Associated Press reported.

Rice, 84, asked the judge for a life-sentence despite suggested sentencing guidelines recommending only six years.

"Please have no leniency with me," said the nun, who is a sister in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me."

The trio anti-nuclear peace activists who dubbed themselves "Transform Now Plowshares" said they wanted to call attention to what they see as excessive U.S. spending on atomic arms and the military, the wire service reported. The protesters said they believed their Y-12 break-in was wildly successful and offered no regret for their actions, which revealed lax security practices at the so-called "Fort Knox of uranium" in Tennessee.

Despite triggering Y-12 security alarms, the activists spent more than two hours by themselves in the site's restricted area, where they spray-painted anti-war slogans, emptied bottles of human blood and prayed. They were eventually discovered and arrested by security guards. The company that managed the site's security lost its contract in the aftermath of the break-in.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar was publicly dubious about the government's assertion that the protesters had caused any real national security harm by exposing the security lapses at the Y-12 plant. Still, the judge said he wanted to discourage further similar protests.

After they are released from prison, Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed are to spend another three years under supervision. They were earlier ordered to pay fines totaling $53,000.

"They just keep doing it," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore was quoted by the Knoxville News-Sentinel as saying. "They are incorrigible. ... The next chance they get, they will do it again."

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • Nuclear Security Primer: The Existing System

    Sept. 17, 2014

    This primer provides an overview of the key agreements, guidelines, multilateral engagement mechanisms, and implementation services that make up today’s nuclear security system. It also summarizes the benefits and limitations of each.

  • White Paper: Challenges and Opportunities for Strengthening the Global Nuclear Security System

    Sept. 17, 2014

    This paper identifies key elements of the existing nuclear security system, reveals gaps in the existing system, and describes the characteristics of a strengthened global nuclear security system that were developed during the first three meetings of NTI's Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities.

Country Profile

Flag of United States

United States

This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →