~ from MDC Brooklyn by Sr. Megan Rice, imprisoned nuclear disarmament activist

page1image400December 10, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Following Thanksgiving time, and preparing to celebrate the gifting time, I again find a shared response to all our faithful correspondents most appropriate. Once again, especially moved by a passage from Matthew 11, for today, speaking clearly of gifts treasured by prophets everywhere. I quote Jesus’ own in: “Take upon you my yoke (I give you these gifts); I am gentle and humble of heart, and you’ll find rest…” Surely gifts relevant to many in the daily reports of activity stirred by events in Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland. Both the nonviolent responses nightly to police brutality, and on Democracy Now! today to Diane Feinstein’s reportage on the long-standing use of torture by the CIA; along with the Nobel Peace Prize committee choosing Malala* at 17 for her activism for education for girls, along with 60-year-old teacher Kailash Satyarthi’s struggle for the rights of children in India as elsewhere. Surely gifts to us all, and to be practiced along with the gentleness and humility they imply if we are able to receive with the truths they expose.

I just wish the technology for giving each of you a video scene of how this Unit (for 100+ women’s detention – while awaiting time yet to be “spent”) has been transformed these days by products of creative art which many are sharing in giving and receiving joy. Their decorations invite us amazingly in welcome to “Christmas around the world”. Surely the creativity in the very diversity of cultures is inspiring life-enhancing alternatives into positive ways of using pent-up energies to share much peace and joy – even as we know something of the weight carried by so many through long, harsh and unfair sentences.

Somehow, in the “economy” of your prayer-energy, in solidarity with many working to bring truth, justice and re-awakening, to bring about the healing and harmony of peace, wherever our Planet is wounded by violence, is what we celebrate together in all the diversity.

I know also that Michael and Greg join in our prayer and thanksgiving for the gifts which each of you bring through the thoughts you share in each of your letters. We are all blessed by one another’s gifts of life as we move into the year called 2015!

Most gratefully,
Michael, Greg and Megan, Transform Now Plowshares

* “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb, (2013), Little, Brown and Co.


CsBLU38EYrGRIYcUAHmBa9NIq5rQibJL6aFJ3zOzyaxyoXIGlaBS-fkTWk3uKu9T5PRP=s111December 26, 2014 Kwanzaa begins…

Dear Sisters and Brothers in action with Transform Now Plowshares,

Once again I’m doing a one for-each-and-all reply to your many kind letters of the past months. I’ve tried to be mindful of each one of your messages, and to allow the thoughts you share so generously to inform my reflections on this very special year that is ending, so we can move into the 70th year since Hiroshima and Nagasaki with renewed hopes for transformation.

Many of you do express one common concern: that things here are not too difficult or hard for us to live with. In West Africa, we have a common caution: “Go by opposites!” Actually, and I believe it’s true for Greg and Mike, one of my frequent thoughts is, “My, how great these sister (or brother) inmates really are!” I guess, like people everywhere: so wise, so enduringly and endearingly patient, strong, creatively thoughtful and perceptive of often unexpressed wants or real needs of others.

I just wish some of you could be here to see what we’ve seen emerging over the past few weeks. You may remember that most of the 111+ women came to this mainly men’s high rise detention facility (built for up to 3,000 pre-trial detainees) only last March, 2014. They were moved here to give their Danbury federal prison space to men in need of federal prison space. So thus our women’s first Christmas here (as they too await space in women’s federal prisons).

Well, the creativity among us seemed to be bubbling over. And what emerged was a 20-part concert created on the theme “Merry Christmas to the Whole World!” This meant decorations, writing short dramas (codes!), traditional dances and songs, all illustrative of the variety of cultures among us: Caribbean islanders, Russians, Koreans, Chinese, South and North Americans, Samoan and Thailanders, Israel and U.K. citizens and residents. For example, one of the props, a “life-sized” dragon that actually could move and dance because of the four pairs of legs carrying it – all put together using used cardboard from boxes, tapes, glue, etc. Even a semblance of high rise buildings, Santa dressed in red tissue paper suit with a life-sized reindeer, etc., etc.

As I write, my eyes take in one of the wall posters naming the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith – yes, all ingredients for transforming an attempted U.S. empire-in-decay from monarchy into democracy again, with life-enhancing alternatives (as Elaine Scarry expresses so well in her book).

Today’s selection from Palmer Parker (OREPA reflections for December-January) puts it so well:
“If we want to live nonviolent lives, we must learn to stand… between the way things are and how they might be, faithfully… breaking our collective hearts open to justice, truth and love.” Ahaa, I’m thinking, this well sums up your thoughts, lived and said in letters as you share them. Thanks to each one for your messages, to OREPA, and all who inspire us to give, share and receive a more peace-filled Planet in the tomorrows yet to come. I feel that Greg and Michael join me in hope, experience and prayer.


Megan Rice shcj


Megan asked that the following Update from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance be included with these letters.



The Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant appears to be headed—once again—for a budget train wreck in the near future. The biggest question left on the table is whether Congress will keep shoveling cash into the engine until the collision or adopt a conservative approach—draw back on funding now and sort out the future before plunging ahead.

While no analogy is perfect, the often used train wreck analogy seems fitting. Plans for the UPF bomb plant have been sidetracked twice in the last three years. With NNSA refusing to provide much solid information about the current plant, the UPF train has entered a long dark tunnel, riding on rails of taxpayer dollars. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Ultimately, the UPF’s two core problems may prove its undoing.

One problem is it just costs too darn much to build a new nuclear bomb plant. At this point, it appears the cost estimates go higher than NNSA can count. Language in a past spending bill capped the cost of the UPF at $6.5 billion; now a new $4.2 billion “cap” applies only to the first phase (the UPF), doesn’t count money already spent, and only projects ten years into the future—and just like that, fiscal responsibility slides on down the track.

Nobody knows (or will tell) how much it will really cost to modernize weapons production infrastructure at Y12 so the NNSA can keep building bombs indefinitely.

The second problem is bigger, and related to the first: Is the UPF necessary at all? This question has been posed by OREPA, the Project on Government Oversight, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and others.  Now it’s being asked by Congress. NNSA says they need to maintain the industrial capacity to produce 80 thermonuclear bomb cores (secondaries) per year and to do it with new, expensive, yet-to-be-proven technologies.

Unfortunately, unanswered questions have not slowed the NNSA’s run- away spending locomotive. With no valid UPF plan approved, NNSA just keeps spending—hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013 and again in 2014.


This fall, NNSA approached Congressional staffers with a proposal to decouple the UPF (Phase I) from the rest of the Y12 modernization train with the $6.5 billion “budget cap” dedicated to Phase I only; the rest of the train would await a new schedule (and taxpayers would have to buy a new ticket)—cost unknown—at a later date.

Language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), approved by the House, expected to pass in the Senate in early December, appears to give them most of what they asked for.


The NDAA establishes a ten-year ceiling of $4.2 billion on Phase I of the UPF—if NNSA thinks it will need more, it has to tell Congress by March 1, 2015. The $4.2B cap does not include the roughly $1.5 billion already spent.

The NDAA also requires the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Energy and the head of the US nuclear forces, to document the need for a production capacity of 50-80 secondaries/year—the report is to be detailed, unclassified, and presented to Congress “not later than 120 days after the enactment of this Act.” That makes the due date early March.

Congress is also requiring NNSA to establish a modicum of accountability, with provisions requiring:

• a description of actions taken to hold contractors, employees of con-tractors, and employees of the federal government accountable for the repeated failures within the project;
• a description of lines of responsibility, authority, and accountability for the project, including the roles and responsibilities for each key federal and contractor position; and
• a description of the structural reforms planned or implemented by the Secretary to ensure Phase I is executed on time and on schedule.

Congress also set a date for abandoning Building 9212 by 2025, though there is no indication this date is justified by any technical or safety assessment. Currently, building 9212 conducts dangerous operations despite its dramatic failure to meet current seismic standards—it is, literally, a ticking time bomb. Absent a commitment to shut down the unsafe facility, the only defense available to the work- force and community is prayer that an earthquake will not happen.


Until now, failure to comply with the law that requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for major federal projects was one of NNSA’s biggest problems with the third-generation UPF.

Now Congress is raising a prior question: Why do we need this facility in the first place?

Congress is not the first to ask this question, but they are the first who can command an answer.

For obvious reasons, this is the question that must always be answered first before taxpayer dollars are spent—in planning for major projects, the DOE calls this Critical Decision 0 (CD-0). When the second-generation UPF plan was scrapped, NNSA said they did not plan to revisit CD-0. Now it appears Congress is on the verge of requiring it.

It is not possible to know what the Secretary of Defense will put in the report; some past claims used to justify the UPF have been met with skepticism by NNSA insiders. One clue to the “need” question is simply the difficulty with getting the UPF funded and built. If it were truly essential, if our nuclear stockpile could not be maintained without it, Congress would fund it straightaway.

The very fact that the question is on the table exposes the UPF for what it is—a very costly and inefficient jobs program, more pork for a community that has, over the last seventy years, ranked among the top five Congressional districts in the country in tax dollars eaten.


The exclamation point in that heading is astonishment mixed with outrage. With no authorized plan, no valid cost estimate, no confirmed need for the UPF, Congress is still approving a $6+ billion bomb plant, including hundreds of millions of dollars in the current spending bill, and they are giving more than $300 million this year to the management team that has already spent well over a billion dollars with nothing to show for it—or nothing they are willing to show.

This kind of project planning defies any definition of fiscal responsibility and is as far as one can get from the label “conservative.”

The spending “cap” is not a real cap. With Congress agreeing to apply the “cap” to Phase I of the UPF bomb plant only, and writing off past costs, and requiring only a ten-year projection for a job that will take more than ten years, we have no credible estimate at all for the total cost of modernizing uranium operations at Y12—upgrading existing facilities and eventually replacing them, maintaining high security over a large footprint until consolidation happens decades from now, and whatever else is required to keep Y12 operating.

Even this loose accounting doesn’t cover the total cost of the UPF. The guts of the bomb plant is the technology that will be installed in it. That technology, in development now, is funded separately from the UPF con- struction budget. The “cap” is for Phase I construction.

In January, a new Congress takes the throttle. It remains to be seen if the new Congress will continue to throw money at an ill-defined, unjustified, money-devouring project.

Responsible conservative leader- ship will require not only answers, but a legitimate independent cost estimate. Responsible conservative leadership will require NNSA to follow the law and begin preparation of the required EIS. Responsible conservative leadership will base the funding cap for the UPF on actual cost projections rather than a moving-target number pulled out of thin air—$4.2 billion? $6.5 billion? Responsible conservative leadership will refuse to fund any bomb plant at all unless a legitimate need exists— and pie-in-the-sky weapon-designer dreams of new nuclear bombs does not meet that description.

The UPF Accountability Project is a project of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance to collect, develop and provide information to the public about the multi-billion dollar Uranium Processing Facility planned for the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge,TN in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson who admonished that an informed public is the only safe repository of government. Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance www.orepa.org • orep@earthlink.net