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3 US Peace Activists Convicted of Violating Nuclear Plant Security

A photo a sign warns against trespassing onto the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (File)
An elderly Catholic nun and two other peace activists have been convicted of breaking into a key U.S. nuclear weapons facility and defacing the property.

A federal jury in Tennessee Wednesday found 83-year-old Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed of damaging federal property and sabotaging the Y-12 National Security Complex in the town of Oak Ridge last July.

The trio cut through security fences and spray-painted nonviolent messages on a building that houses hundreds of tons of highly enriched uranium, the material used in the making of atomic weapons. Federal prosecutors said the trio's actions caused thousands of dollars in damage, and forced operations at the Y-12 complex to shut down for two weeks.

Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed could be sentenced to 20 years in prison for sabotage and 10 years for the property damage. The three were ordered to jail after the verdict. A hearing will be held Thursday on the merits of continuing to detain them until they are sentenced.

The Y-12 complex, as well as the town of Oak Ridge itself, was established at the start of World War Two as part of the so-called Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb dropped on Japan in 1945. The complex is the primary location in the United States for processing and storing enriched uranium, and dismantling old nuclear weapons.