Monday, April 11, 2011

Walking for a Nuclear Free Future: Asheville to Oak Ridge, TN

Pilgrimage for a Nuclear Free Future steps out from Asheville, NC  to join the April 16 Direct Action and march from Bissell Park in Oak Ridge to the gates of the Y-12 bomb plant.
The mountainS of Western North Carolina once again reverberate to the Buddhist drum and the  sounds of the mantra NA MU MYO HO REN GE KYO.  This is the deeply resonate chant of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order as they make their way, step by step,  to the gates of the Y-12 nuclear bomb factory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A dozen walkers set out from Asheville on April 8 for  the 12th annual pilgrimage to the "Secret City," part of the Manhattan Project where fuel was enriched for the world's first atomic bomb.  I joined them for two days of walking through the greening mountains, rich farmland and blooming meadows. Along the way we found a resting spot on the shady lawn of a man who told us his father had worked at Oak Ridge and had since died from a form of cancer caused by the radiation exposure.  "Ya'll are welcome to rest here as long as you want," he told us.

The rural route to Oak Ridge winds through some of the most beautiful land in the country. Our friends Brother Utsumi and Sister Denise have been walking the highways and byways of the Southeast U.S. for over twenty years, each step a prayer for peace. On this walk every step seemed weighted with grief over the ongoing tragedy in Japan.  Bro. Utsumi's sister and other family members live close to the earthquake and Tsunami disaster area. "We Japanese have a special duty to speak out against the use of nuclear weapons and power," he told me.  His particular focus has been the nuclear bomb plant in Oak Ridge. Brother Utsumi is a Japanese Buddhist monk, and Sr. Denise is an American woman and former journalist who joined the order twenty years ago.  The two are a familiar presence at actions for peace throughout the Southeast.

The Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, TN  is the last full-scale operating nuclear weapons production plant in the United States.  Y12 makes the thermonuclear "secondaries" --the part that turns an atomic bomb into a thermonuclear bomb. A new bomb plant is proposed for Oak Ridge as a "Uranium Processing Facility" to manufacture parts for the thermonuclear warheads, according to the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, a grassroots group that has been educating and acting for the abolition of nuclear weapons for close to thirty years.

On Saturday, April 16, an Action for Abolition will draw nuclear resisters from throughout the country to the gates of the proposed $6 billion dollar new bomb plant.  This youth-organized event will begin in Oak Ridge at 1 p.m. at Alvin K. Bisselll Park, corner of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Tulane Avenue and march to the Bear Creek Road entrance to Y12 on Scarboro road in Oak Ridge.  According to the organizers, some people may choose to risk arrest in acts of civil resistance during this action for abolition.  For more information contact organizers at: or call 865-776-5050.  A carpool from Asheville is forming and will leave Earth Fare parking lot in West Asheville at 9:30 a.m. Saturday April 16 and return late that evening.
"Nuclear bombs, whether they're used or not, violate everything that is humane. They alter the meaning of life. Why do we tolerate them?"   Arundhati Roy, Author

Photos:  Coleman Smith, Story by Clare Hanrahan 

Sr. Denise & Bro. Utsumi explaining the Peace walk while environmentalist Rusty Sivils listens

No comments:

Post a Comment

We appreciate your feedback. Let us hear from you.