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 Purdue University.
Reactor Name: PUR-1
Fuel: Highly enriched uranium
Power Level: 1 kW
Begin Operating: 1962
Location: The reactor is located in the basement of the campus Electrical Engineering Building, which is surrounded by other engineering buildings and laboratories, a visitors parking lot and a visitors information center. West of the building is the Purdue Mall, a grassy area with pathways and fountains.
Security observations: No guards. No metal detectors. Driver's license was required for tour but no advance background checks. On several visits during the day, night and weekend, two separate doors to the Electrical Engineering Building remained unlocked. The thick basement door leading to the Nuclear Engineering labs and reactor rooms was locked.
What We Found: The Fellows called in advance and easily obtained a tour of the reactor. A detailed one-hour classroom lecture included diagrams of the reactor's core and the location of the fuel rods. Following the presentation and before proceeding into the reactor room, the Fellows were required to sign in and present their driver's licenses. The reactor director told the Fellows that later in the tour, they would have to leave their tote bags behind, but never followed up. The Fellows carried their large tote bags and cameras into the reactor room. Once inside, the operator pointed out the location of the fuel and the control panel.
University Reaction: Jere Jenkins, the director of the Radiation Laboratory, said that he was aware that the Fellows brought their bags into the reactor room, but that he "kept an eye on them." Jenkins said that most campus buildings are unlocked, but would not comment further on security issues. He estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 people tour the reactor annually. Additional Comment: "Your students, if they were terrorists, they would own 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 federal official responsible for security at the nation's campus reactors told ABC News that the unchecked bags were a concern. "We would want to understand why that wasn't done," said Roy Zimmerman, director of the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.