Archive for the ‘Nuclear Guardianship’ Category
By Lisa De Bode, Al Jazeera America
04 June 15
In an interview with Al Jazeera America, Rice reflects on prison life, Iran and the fight against nuclear weapons
egan Rice, an 85-year-old nun who broke into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 2012, along with fellow anti-nuclear activists Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed, was charged with sabotage and damaging federal property and spent about two years in federal prison. They were released on May 16 after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their sabotage convictions while upholding their convictions for the less serious crime of injury to government property and ordering the original court to resentence them on the lesser crime. They don’t regret their actions, and remain devoted to their cause. “We accomplished what we set out to do.” Walli said. In an interview with Al Jazeera America in Queens, New York, on June 3, Rice reflects on her work.
What did a typical day in prison look like?
I would start with my own personal meditation time, as of 4 a.m. in the morning. I would be free and everybody would still be asleep. Breakfast would begin to be served between 6:30 and 7a.m. I joined everybody for that. Not too many wanted to go to that breakfast, they would sleep through it. It was very quiet at that time. Some people, very few, would be ready to go to a job, mostly in laundry. Some would go and clean. There weren’t enough jobs.
Did you have a job?
No, nobody ever asked me to.
What did you do?
I was writing letters, mostly, or reading, or composing, or reading the excellent articles that people would send, which was part of reading the letters, and responding. And it was possible to email from there. That was the only thing, we couldn’t be on the Internet, but we could receive and send emails. I was also meeting up with people, wanting to talk about personal problems, spiritual matters or their cases.
If we can go back to the moment when you broke into the Y-12 facility …
We don’t use the word “break in” because we didn’t break in. We entered the Y-12 facility, legally. And I’d just like to make the statement that all citizens are required to expose and oppose known crimes, equally responsible, according to their ability, and according to their situation. And we had known well of the crime of nuclear weapons, and we knew what was happening at Y-12, so we entered Y-12 through illegal fences, built for an illegal project, and therefore we had to enter in the way we could, others might enter through various other ways, but we found ourselves unable and we had waited so many years to do this, not consciously knowing but feeling it should be done. So we easily entered the base, in a very simple way, taking no time to cut a little slit that was very neat and to crawl through uninhibited, the four fences, the last three in about 15 minutes.
So when you entered that facility, and you got arrested, what went through your mind?
Thank goodness, we’re able to expose and oppose a known crime, in a very short period of time, in the most comprehensive way, that we could think about, which was using symbols, we labeled the building, and we suggested the effects of this building.
How do you look back on your action?
With great satisfaction. We did what we had planned to do, and we never dreamed we could ever do that.
What has resulted from that?
Well, obviously, it was misinterpreted as revealing a breach in the security system. And it is the breach of the security of the planet itself, so they’ve just attributed their crime to us.
What happens next? For you, for the anti-nuclear cause?
I’m not any more involved in this than any other human being in the world, I just happen to be able to at this point to be consciously involved in it because I’m not having children or grandchildren, being in a retired state, and yet having very good health.
But you’ll continue your activism?
Certainly, as long as I live. As long as it exists it’s going to be a focus, as it is for everybody.
What would you tell nuclear non-proliferation negotiators?
I think it could only be this: Let’s get down to brass tacks and just ban nuclear weapons, as many nations, I think 103, have decided to do. … If nobody had them nobody would want them. Nobody would need them.
Most people in the U.S. aren’t worried about nuclear proliferation on a daily basis.
Many people don’t even know we continue in this, unless there is the proper reporting. But the mainstream press in the U.S. had not even reported that it was happening.
What would you tell them?
Stop being under the control of the military industrial complex, corporate entities that profiteer from the plans at a false need for security or a false pursuit of security, for the sake of profiteering only. So let us transform these industries into that which is enhancing life and not destroying life. And it’s very possible. It would be far more profitable for everybody, not just the corporate elites.
How do you and your community plan to take that message forward?
We haven’t planned specifically [laughs], we’re going to continue, carry on what we’re doing, we’re writing newsletters, we focus on this, if we’re calling up people, say, how are you praying about the ban on nuclear weapons, comprehensive ban on nuclear weapons? Just spreading and planting seeds in people’s minds that this is possible, according to each one’s gifts.
What should have gone better in the Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations?
There is always the effort of the major powers the U.S., Britain, France, the major nuclear powers, the Soviet Union, to hang on to the profiteering that this is providing, not to countries, but to international corporations that are profiteering off the manufacture of nuclear weapons. The rest of the world is being impoverished and polluted, actively destroyed as long as we keep this up, and don’t actively try to decontaminate and demilitarize, dismantle in a way that people get their just wages and they don’t all go into the top, less than one percent that hold the world’s economy.
What is your opinion on the political debate over lifting sanctions on Iran?
The U.S. has always had to have a Goliath created because it has played the role of Goliath, and to distract it from its superpower drive, it has to have somebody it’s defending itself against. Iran is just one of those, I would say, that has been selected, and of course the oil competition between the two countries has gone back to the turn of the century. But it’s Middle Eastern oil, not U.S. oil. Iranians are just like Americans, human beings, and they’ve been maligned. I’ve met many, many; they’re not too happy with the way some of their leaders are, but we’re not happy with the way some of our leaders are.
Social ecology students, working with Professor John Whiteley at the University of Colorado in Irvine, have produced a web site with much information about Rocky Flats and the nuclear enterprise. See http://uniquehazardsrockyflats.weebly.com/
Butler was for years in charge of all nuclear weapons, weather delivered by airplanes, submarines or land-based missiles. Reading this article will help you understand the transformation in his life from an advocate of nuclear destruction to an opponent who calls for the total abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere. According to Butler, ‘The cold, hard fact of the matter is that a nuclear weapon is, at its very core, anti-ethical. It is simply a device for causing wholesale destruction. Nuclear conflict is essentially an irrational activity, because essentially what you’re doing is signing your own death notice.”
Appeals Court Overturns Sabotage Conviction of Transform Now Plowshares Activists Arrested at Oak Ridge in 2012In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace on May 9, 2015 at 3:15 am
Appeals court overturns sabotage convictions of Transform Now Plowshares activists, vacates sentences of Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Gregory Boertje-Obed on all charges and remands for resentencing.
Court suggests decision may lead to release of Rice, Boertje-Obed and Walli
8 May 2015
for immediate release
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in favor of the Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed who were convicted in 2013 of sabotage for their July 28, 2012 Transform Now Plowshares protest of nuclear weapons production at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
“The purpose of the action of Michael, Megan and Greg was to call attention to the ongoing production of thermonuclear weapons components at the bomb plant in Oak Ridge and, more specifically, to oppose plans to build a new, multi-billion dollar bomb plant—the Uranium Processing Facility—at Y12,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “They were nonviolent protestors in the tradition of Gandhi, not saboteurs. We are pleased the Sixth Circuit appreciated the difference.”
The court ruled 2-1 in a decision handed down on May 8, 2015, that the government failed to prove the Transform Now Plowshares activists intended to “injure the national defense,” a requirement for conviction under the sabotage act. Disposing of the government’ arguments one by one, the court finally states simply: “The defendants’ convictions under §2155(a) must be reversed.”
The circuit court had the option of merely reversing the sabotage conviction but letting the defendants’ sentences stand on the other charge for which they were convicted—depredation of government property. Noting the lesser charge would have resulted in lesser sentences—the men received 62 month sentences and Megan Rice a sentence of 35 months—under federal sentencing guidelines (“it appears that the guidelines ranges for their § 1361 convictions on remand will be substantially less than their time already served in federal custody.“), the court chose to vacate all sentences and remand the their cases for resentencing on the remaining depredation count.
Michael Walli is currently serving his sentence at McKean federal prison in Bradford, PA; Greg Boertje-Obed is in Leavenworth, KS; Megan Rice is in federal prison in Brooklyn, NY. Her release date is currently in mid-November, 2015.
At this time, it is not clear when resentencing will take place.
for more information
Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050
Paul Magno 202 321 6650
Last fall when I learned that US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) planned a “prescribed burn” of 701 acres at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge I posted a MoveOn petition calling for them to cancel the burn. Opposition to the planned burn grew rapidly. 2,870 people signed the petition. On January 29, 2015, FWS canceled the burn. BUT, they said, this was only a postponement. They intend to do more burns at the Refuge in the future.
On learning this I posted a second petition. All who sign it are telling FWS: “No ‘prescribed burns’ at Rocky Flats ever.” To sign, go to http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/no-prescribed-burns-at
Thanks for signing. Please urge others to sign also. This petition is even more important than the last one.
Standards for permissible exposure
fail to protect sufficiently.
They are a dam that holds back
a flood of illness and death
but cannot prevent
an “insignificant” trickle
of the diseased and damned
from passing through.
These standards are a damn dam
that lets a harmful enterprise thrive.
Today’s trickle is a warning:
In time, the dam will break
in a flood of illness and death.
Last fall I saw a comment on the web site of the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council that U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) planned to do a “prescribed burn” on 701 acres in the southwestern portion of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Convinced that this would release plutonium particles into the air I posted a petition on MoveOn calling for people who opposed the burn to sign their names. This would provide immediate communication to FWS personnel that their plan was opposed. Next I wrote an op-ed informing people of FWS plans and urging them to sign the petition. We quickly assembled a “technical group” consisting of Harvey Nichols, Jon Lipsky, Mary (Mickey) Harlow, Anne Fenerty, Art Burmeister, Gale Biggs and myself. This group met several times in the fall developing our own plans and communicating our views to FWS, agencies of the state government that had to issue a burn permit and others, including members of Congress. We got David Lucas of FWS and colleagues to agree to meet with us on Thursday, January 28, so they could hear from us and we from them. But when Lucas learned that media and an attorney might be present at our meeting, he backed out and refused to attend. The very next day FWS announced cancellation of the burn. By this time 2,780 people had signed the petition. I shut the petition down and wrote a second op-ed explaining that FWS was not dropping the idea of a burn but was postponing it. My op-ed referred to the necessity for ongoing opposition and spelled out alternatives to the burn. No issue had so quickly gained public attention and opposition to government plans. For a well-done summary of what has happened on this so far, go to the TruthOut story at http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29537-prescribed-burn-at-former-nuclear-weapons-plant-stirs-public- I highly recommend it.
People who would like to work on this for the future, please contact the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center at 303-444-6981, attend our regular Nuclear Guardians meeting noon till 2 PM every Tuesday at China Gourmet in the Lucky’s Market shopping area at Broadway at Quince in north Boulder, or contact me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
RMPJC has played a major role on this, along with many others. I posted a petition eventually signed by 2,780 people who opposed the burn. I also published two op-eds on this in the Camera. For a good account see
This article was written by Terrie Barrie, whose husband is a former Rocky Flats worker and who herself is one of the leading advocates for workers in the nuclear weapons industry who find it difficult or impossible to get promised government compensation for ailments likely brought on by exposure to radioactive and toxic materials in the workplace. I copy it because I too think the statement that Rocky Flats was just a “fancy machine shop” is both false and ludicrous. Read on to see more of what I’m talking about
Rocky Flats was just a “fancy machine shop”. Oh, really??
Terrie Barrie, June 1, 2014
June 6 will be the 25th anniversary of the FBI raiding Rocky Flats for alleged environmental crimes. The Arvada Center for the Arts is holding a free, three day event commemorating this event. http://arvadacenter.org/on-stage/rocky-flats-then-and-now-2014
In anticipation of this event, the Denver Post published an article on Sunday http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25874064/feds-raided-rocky-flats-25-years-ago-signaling
I am honored to participate in one panel discussion regarding the worker health issue. So, I was kind of excited about the publicity. That is until I read this paragraph
“Rocky Flats was nothing but a fancy machine shop … in what was then the middle of nowhere. But we had machining capabilities that nobody else had,” said Scott Surovchak, Rocky Flats legacy site manager for the Department of Energy.”
Really, Mr. Surovchak? Just a fancy machine shop? Do you know what Rocky Flats did for 50 years?
I stewed over this statement all day. I was furious. Then the former workers from Rocky Flats and other nuclear weapons sites started emailing me their thoughts on this statement and I decided to write this blog.
Yes, Rocky Flats machined components for a nuclear weapon. In fact, for those of you who are not familiar with nuclear weapons, they machined the actual plutonium pit. But the activities at Rocky Flats didn’t stop at machining parts. There were chemical processes to retrieve the valuable radioactive materials from waste products. For instance there was a molten salt extraction process to recover americium from Plutonium 241, http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bk-1980-0117.ch032. In the early years there was also a foundry in Building 881. This foundry “cast enriched uranium into spherical shapes that were sent directly to machining.” http://www.lm.doe.gov/land/sites/co/rocky_flats/HAER/base/Buildings/881.htm.
If the statement that Rocky Flats was just a fancy machine shop, I have to ask, what respectable machine shop would not have a Criticality Lab? Yup, the Rocky Flats fancy machine shop had one. http://oralhistory.boulderlibrary.org/interview/oh1179/
This statement does a great disservice to the thousands of women and men who worked not only at Rocky Flats but at all of the nuclear weapons facilities. It trivializes the serious and dangerous work performed by the dedicated employees during the Cold War.
I was a bit hesitant in writing this blog. Am I sure I want to stir things up right before the Arvada Center’s event? Will this jeopardize the Alliance of Nuclear Worker Advocacy Groups (ANWAG) and DEEOIC Interim Advisory Board (DIAB) working relationship with DOE? Was it possible that the reporter misstated Mr. Surovchak’s statement or took it out of context?
As I said, earlier, I received a number of replies from the former workers. The one that convinced me that this blog needed to be written came from Mr. Maurice Copeland. Mr. Copeland is a former worker from the Kansas City Plant and DIAB Board member. He is also the petitioner to have that site included in the Special Exposure Cohort. He emailed me and stated that the Deputy Site Manager referred to the Kansas City Plant “as just another manufacturing plant.” Did a memo go out directing the site managers to minimize to the public the type of work performed at these sites and the possible impact?
In 1999, then Secretary Bill Richardson acknowledged and apologized for the harm done to the workers at these facilities. Is DOE reverting to denying – or at least play down – the serious issues surrounding this program?
I’m a sick nuclear weapons worker advocate and obviously I take this responsibility as seriously as a mother bear protecting her cubs. There is also the environmental issue involving these sites. There are plenty of dedicated advocates for those problems. If we are going to face the problems the sick workers and the communities face in order to resolve them the federal government needs to be honest and open. It’s that simple.