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US nun sentenced to three years in jail for Tennessee nuclear break-in

351375_Sister Megan Rice

An elderly American nun has been sentenced to 35 months in prison for breaking into a US nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee.

US District Judge Amul Thapar sentenced Sister Megan Rice on Tuesday.

The 84-year-old nun, along with two men, in July 2012 entered the Y-12 National Security Complex where enriched uranium for nuclear bombs is stored.

Peace activists Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed were also sentenced to five years and two months in jail because they had longer criminal histories.

The three were convicted of cutting fences and entering the facility, embarrassing American officials and prompting security changes.

“(Rice) does not have the extensive criminal records the others have. Her crimes are minimal in comparison to the others,” Thapar was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The three activists had initially faced up to 20 years in prison after their conviction last May.

They were also found guilty of causing more than $1,000 of damage to US government property.

When they were inside the facility, they walked around, spray-painted graffiti, strung out crime-scene tape and chipped a wall with hammers.

Top US officials were reassigned, including at the National Nuclear Security Administration. The company providing security at the site was also dismissed and other officers were sacked, demoted or suspended.

In a statement, Rice said her only regret was that she waited so long to take action.

“Please have no leniency with me. To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me,” she said.

Rice said nuclear arms were one of the most pressing issues of our times.

“It’s the criminality of this 70-year industry,” she said. “We spend more on nuclear arms than on the departments of education, health, transportation, disaster relief and a number of other government agencies that I can’t remember.”

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