Policy Brief - Stanley Foundation

Planning for Success at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

| December 2013

In the dead of night on July 28, 2012, three senior citizens, including an 82-year-old Catholic nun, Sister Megan Rice, broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site of the US Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF). This self-proclaimed “Fort Knox of uranium” is America’s central repository for weapons-grade uranium.

Having cut through four separate fences, including three surrounding the HEUMF, setting off alarms along their way, and passing signs warning that the use of deadly force was permitted against trespassers, the three protesters hammered, spray-painted, and poured human blood on the outer walls of the building. One message proclaimed, “The Fruit of Justice Is Peace.” They also unwittingly hammered at the base of a guard tower at the northwest corner of the HEUMF. Shortly thereafter, a single officer arrived, and eventually he arrested themas they knelt and sang “This Little Light of Mine.”

The security failings revealed by the nun and her fellow protesters are legion. The protesters were on the site for over an hour and 20 minutes, trekking about seven-tenths of a mile as the crow flies, but far longer as they traversed a steep ridge. They pierced fences equipped with sophisticated sensors. Yet the Y-12 Protective Force failed to spot them until they enjoyed unimpeded access to the exterior of the HEUMF forabout 20 minutes. Had these individuals been well-armed, well-equipped terrorists, instead of Bible-toting peace protesters, the incident would have been far more dire.


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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Tobey, William. “Planning for Success at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit.” Policy Brief, Stanley Foundation, December 2013.