KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Three peace activists endangered US national security last year when they breached a secure facility where enriched uranium for nuclear bombs is stored, a federal official testified on Tuesday at their trial on charges of sabotage and destruction of federal property.
Steven Erhart, site manager for the heavily guarded Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, said the break-in by an 83-year-old nun and two others resulted in a 15-day shutdown that disrupted operations at one of the primary manufacturing facilities for the US nuclear weapons program.
"The 15-day shutdown put everything behind in terms of nuclear operations," Erhart said as the first witness for prosecutors in the federal trial. "It hurt our credibility and that credibility is tied to nuclear deterrence."
The activists have admitted they cut perimeter fences in July 2012, walked through the complex for hours and spray-painted slogans and hammered on the walls of an enriched uranium facility. Defense attorneys said the symbolic break-in did not harm the facility.
When a guard finally confronted Michael Walli, 64; Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and nun Megan Rice, 83, the trio offered him food and began singing.