It was four years ago today, in the wee hours of the morning on July 28, that guards at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex noticed, about an hour and a half late, that three intruders were carrying out the Transform Now Plowshares action inside the highest security zone of the bomb plant, having cut their way through four fences and crossed the 60-foot wide lethal-force-authorized Perimeter Intrusion Detection Area.
Once inside the high security zone, they walked to a huge white fortress like building that houses hundreds of tons of nuclear weapons-grade highly enriched uranium. They strung crime scene tape, offered prayers, chipped away at the corner of the building with a small hammer, spread blood on the walls, and painted biblical peace slogans on the wall— The Fruit of Justice is Peace. Woe to Empire.
The Transform Now Plowshares activists chose Y12 for their action for two simple reasons. First, it is an active nuclear weapons production facility. Every day, Y12 is manufacturing thermonuclear secondaries—the explosive core of an H-bomb, as part of the Life Extension Program that modified and modernizes warheads so they can be relied on for another hundred years. Second, Y12 is planning to build a new, multibillion dollar bomb production plant, called the Uranium Processing Facility. The UPF will be the cornerstone of the second generation of US nuclear weapons facilities. The design plans alone have cost $3 billion so far and have helped trigger a new global nuclear arms race.
In the aftermath of the Transform Now Plowshares break-in, the media was filled with stories about the security breach. But few media carried the larger, deeper story—that the real security flaw is the reliance on nuclear weapons themselves, because the bombs provide only the illusion of security. They are, in fact, the most significant threat facing humankind today. They could render the entire planet uninhabitable in one afternoon. Their destructive capacity is so mind-boggling that we usually prefer not to think about it.
After spending nearly two years in jail, Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed saw their sabotage conviction thrown out the court of appeals and they were released from prison. They came back to Oak Ridge last August 6 for a reunion they called “Unfinished Business.”
That business is still unfinished. The government is pushing forward with plans to spend billions on the UPF. And the even more grandiose plans to modernize every part of the US nuclear weapons program is estimated to cost a trillion dollars over the next thirty years—that’s four million dollars an hour, every hour, for thirty years.
Washington Post reporter Dan Zak covered the trial of the Transform Now Plowshares action and wrote a remarkable seven-page report for the Post. He has since expanded that, with trips to the Marshall Islands and across the country, and on July 12 his book Almighty was published. Dan will be in Knoxville, with Megan and Michael, on August 4 to talk about his book. You can read a review of the book here.
Stopping nuclear weapons production is not just the responsibility of courageous, peace-loving activists—it’s a responsibility that weighs on each of us, a responsibility the world has realized since the Nuremberg trials held people accountable for the actions of their government. During one pre-trial hearing in the Transform Now Plowshares case, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark came to Knoxville to testify. Asked about the work being done at Y12 today, he declared it “Unlawful.”
The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance continues to work to oppose ongoing bomb production at Y12 and the plans for the new bomb plant. We are pleased to have colleagues around the country joining us in this work, but we know we bear a special responsibility for what happens in our back yard. We are asking you to join us—support our work with your presence, your donations, your letter-writing. If you don’t know about the current nuclear threat, we’ll help you get educated.
It is up to us to leave the kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. The surest way to make sure nuclear weapons are never used is to get rid of them. Join us.