Anti-nuke activist gets eight months

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Four months in, four months to go.

In the third of eleven sentencing hearings expected in coming days for a group of anti-nuclear activists opposing a $7.5 billion new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility, a veteran of the peace movement was sentenced to eight months in jail this afternoon.

Bonnie Urfer, the co-director of the watchdog group Nukewatch, was handed the sentence by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton. In jail since her May trial for a 2010 peace action, Urfer was credited with time served and given four more months in jail.

Urfer was part of a July 5, 2010, action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. One of three nuclear weapons sites currently under consideration by the federal government, a major new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility at the Oak Ridge complex was officially announced July 25.

Part of a group of 13 who took part in the action, Urfer climbed over a barbed wire fence onto the property of the Y-12 complex and was arrested.

Today’s sentencing, according to a post on the Web site of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, a local group opposing the new facility’s construction, saw Guyton denounce Urfer as a “prolific criminal” for her more than 50 convictions for trespass on federal property for civil disobedience actions.

Two of the other protesters who were part of the July, 2010 action at the Y-12 site, Jean Gump and Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel, were sentenced by Guyton yesterday to time served and three months in jail, respectively.

Ending her statement before the judge this afternoon, Urfer spoke of those she had met in Tennessee who had faced illness because of the operations at the nuclear site.

“I have met people in jail who have lost family members and suffered illness due to the work they did at Y-12,” said Urfer, according to the peace group’s Web site.

“The government will pay them $150,000 for a life, if they can prove their sickness came from Y12. How many deaths will it take to convince the court that harm is imminent? How many deaths will it take for the court to name it a crime? For me, it takes one.”

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