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 Arizona.
Reactor Name: University of Arizona Nuclear Reactor Laboratory
Fuel: Low-enriched uranium
Power Level: 110 kW
Began Operating: 1958
Location: Inside the Engineering Building, in the heart of campus, nearby the student union.
Security Observations: No guards. No metal detectors. Some building doors unlocked, even at night.
What We Found: The reactor room itself is easily visible through single-pane exterior windows. Once inside the building, staff members told the Fellows that entry to the reactor room required a background check, but allowed the Fellows to view the reactor in operation and film it through a large viewing window. A technician told the Fellows that the reactor is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2010 and that the university no longer has a nuclear engineering program.
On a return visit at night, two unlocked doors to the building were accessible via exterior stairwells. The Fellows were able to film the reactor room at length through the building's exterior windows unchallenged.
University Reaction: Reactor Supervisor Michael Gavelek would not comment about reactor security or decommission plans.
In a written statement, University President Peter Likins said the Nuclear Reactor Laboratory is "safe and secure."
The reactor "does not contain the type or amount of radioactive material that would make it an attractive target for terrorist activities," Likins wrote, adding that the lab has security and emergency plans that are frequently reviewed and tested by local, state and federal authorities.
"Even in the event of damage to the facility, from whatever cause, the reactor would not create a danger to the public," Likins wrote. "The University of Arizona has every confidence in its ability to maintain appropriate security at this laboratory until it is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2010."
Additional Comment: As far as the glass windows separating the Fellows from the reactor room itself, "that glass would be broken out in a matter of seconds to get inside the reactor," said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it is investigating the adequacy of the reactor's security plan.