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A Nun, a House Painter, and a Drifter Walk into a Nuclear Complex

It sounds like the start of an absurd joke, but last summer three peace activists broke into one of the most secure nuclear-weapons facilities in the U.S.. The Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee is often called the Fort Knox of Uranium, but the activists were able to walk in armed only with bolt cutters and flashlights. 

In a new feature, The Washington Post gives an in-depth account of that night and the questions it raised about how the U.S. secures its most dangerous materials.

From the article:

With elbow grease and blind faith, they would make a symbolic incursion to defeat the site’s $150 million-a-year security operation. They would mortify the nation’s nuclear weapons programs, which since 1940 has cost at least $9.8 trillion in 2013 dollars — costlier than all other government expenditures except Social Security and non-nuclear defense programs, according to nuclear weapons policy analyst Stephen Schwartz’s recent update of his 1998 Brookings Institution audit.

In short: Nuclear weapons have been the United States’ third-highest national priority since World War II, in terms of dollars, and we spend a fortune every year to manage and secure them. Yet a crucial facility in this nuclear enterprise “wasn’t even nun-proofed, much less terrorist-proofed,” as a Tennessee congressman would put it in a February hearing on the break-in, which shut down Y-12 site operations for two weeks.

See the full article, including graphic-novel-style illustrations, at The Washington Post.

By: Andre Francisco
Online Producer, POGO

andre francisco Andre Francisco is the Online Producer for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Y-12 /Oak Ridge National Lab

Authors: Andre Francisco

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