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Megan Rice: How Did An 82-Year-Old Nun Get Past A Nuclear Facility's Security?

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If worries of lax security around nuclear weaponry storage facilities were keeping you up at night, you may want to skip reading this one: details are out on how 82-year-old Roman Catholic nun and activist Sister Megan Rice and two accomplices pulled off what The New York Times reported was "the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex."

Ironically Rice was honored for her act of civil disobedience on Wednesday at the House Energy and and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcomittee meeting in Washington, D.C, the Associated Press reported. "That young lady there brought a Holy Bible," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. "If she had been a terrorist, the Lord only knows what would have happened." The break-in highlighted security flaws at a time when the the Energy Department was working on loosening its oversight on contractors, The Times reported.

The Center for Public Integrity spoke with Rice about her role in defacing the Y-12 Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF) near Knoxville, Tennessee, which contains enough material to make 10,000 nuclear bombs, the Center reported. It's been called the "Fort Knox of Uranium" by industry observers.

Rice, along with fellow pacifists Michael R. Walli, 63, and Gregory I. Boertje-Obed, 57, were "armed only with flashlights, binoculars, bolt cutters, bread, flowers, a Bible, and several hammers," when they approached the Knoxville nuclear facility on July 28, the Center for Public Integrity reported.

It took the crew "a few hours" to get near the facility under the cloak of night (dealing with streams, hilly terrain, tall grass and guard vehicles along the way), but only 15 minutes to cut through four fences, Rice told the Center.

"Once there, she and two other peace activists had plenty of time to string a red 'caution' tape (purchased at TrueValue hardware) around some pillars beneath one of the watchtowers, and light a few candles before the first guard showed up. They also had time to pour the blood -- 'very reverently,' she said — and knick the concrete in what she called a 'symbolic cracking of the cornerstone.'”

The group is awaiting trial in October. They face charges of trespassing (a misdemeanor) and defacing and attacking (felonies) government property; they face up to 16 years in jail and up to $600,000 in fines for the nuclear facility breach, The Times reported.

The nuclear bomb is "the worst weapon that's ever been made in the history of mankind," Rice told media after she was released from custody on August 3. "It should not exist. For this we give our lives."

Sister Megan Rice is no stranger to civil disobedience: she's been arrested up to 50 times before and served six months in a federal prison, a sentence that changed her perspective in life: “It was a great eye-opener,” Rice told The New York Times. “When you’ve had a prison experience, it minimizes your needs very much.”

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Megan Rice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Behind Nuclear Breach, a Nun's Bold Fervor - NYTimes.com