An 83-year-old nun expressed no remorse after she and two other peace activists were convicted Wednesday of breaking into a nuclear site in Tennessee.
Sister Megan Rice and activists Michael Walli, 64, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 56, admitted that they cut the fences at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge last July. After gaining access to the nuclear site, which processes uranium, the activists hung banners and wrapped crime scene tape around the facility.
Rice said she didn’t feel sorry for her actions.
“My regret was I waited 70 years,” she told the courtroom in Knoxville, the Associated Press reports. Of the uranium being processed at Y-12, the nun said, “It is manufacturing that which can only cause death.”
Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed were convicted of sabotaging the plant and causing more than $1,000 in damage to government property. They face up to 10 years in prison apiece when they are sentenced for the break-in.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Theodore said the peace activists’ beliefs didn’t give them justification to deface the Oak Ridge nuclear site.
“We are a nation of laws,” he said, according to BBC. “You can’t take the law into your own hands and force your views on other people.”
Francis Lloyd, an attorney for the defendants, said they never intended to access nuclear material nor did they get near it.
Lloyd said the nuclear site should have had better security.
“The shortcomings in security at one of the most dangerous places on the planet have embarrassed a lot of people,” Lloyd said, calling his clients “scapegoats.”
Operations at the Oak Ridge site were disrupted because of the break-in, which also caused $8,500 in damage to the Tennessee facility. WSI, the company in charge of security at the site, was relieved of its duties as a result. In addition, Congress and the U.S. Energy Department investigated Oak Ridge and found “troubling displays of ineptitude” at the site.
"The severity of the failure of leadership at Y-12 has demanded swift, strong and decisive action by the [Energy] department. Since the Y-12 incursion, major actions have taken place to improve security immediately and for the long term," National Nuclear Security Administration official Neile Miller said Wednesday to a Senate subcomittee reviewing the break-in.
Defense attorneys said Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed said it was the government's embarrassment that led to the serious charges against them, according to AP.
It wasn’t just the elderly nun who showed no remorse for the defendants’ actions.
Boertje-Obed said the trio of activists was doing a public service by breaking into the nuclear site.
“Nuclear weapons do not provide security,” he told the court. “Our actions were providing real security and exposing false security.”