Ten students, working for ABC News, visited nuclear reactors on 25 college campuses and found many gaping security holes, prompting a federal investigation. Here's what the team found at the University of California, Irvine.
Reactor Name: The UCI Nuclear Reactor
Fuel: Low-enriched uranium
Power Level: 250 kW
Began Operating: 1969
Location: The basement of Rowland Hall, the Chemistry Department building, on the southern part of the college campus, near other physical science buildings. Adjacent to the campus's central grassy common.
Security Observations: No metal detectors. No guards. Doors to the building were open during the day. The door to the reactor area itself was locked. At 1:30 a.m. a side door to the building was propped open with a book. Once inside, the reactor itself is easily visible through a glass window.
What We Found:
The Fellows entered the building on two separate occasions and easily located the reactor room. A large window looking onto the reactor room had been covered up, with the exception of an opening about the size of a license plate. Although there are security cameras at the reactor room door, the Fellows were able to videotape the reactor at length through the opening in the window unchallenged.
Despite surveillance cameras at an outside loading dock, where the large double doors lead directly to the reactor, the Fellows were able to stop a vehicle next to the dock for several minutes unchallenged. And on one night, while the front door of the building was locked, a side door was propped open by a paperback book. At the time of visit, faculty members were not available for tour request.
University Reaction: Dr. George Miller, reactor supervisor, said the door to the building should not have been propped open with a book, but "students will be students." He is confident that the reactor itself is secure and he said he is not worried about the possibility of an attack. Miller said that general security had been tightened since 9/11, but he could not say whether it improved "actual" security on the ground.
Miller said he knew that the Fellows were visiting campus reactors, saying "the nuclear research community keeps in close contact."
Additional Comment: "This is remarkable to have a security door propped open with a book, that just shouldn't be happening," said Matthew Bunn, a senior research associate specializing in nuclear security at the Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government
The book in the door is a indication of poor training, said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy.
ABC News has learned that the university is considering shutting down the reactor permanently.