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 Wisconsin.
Reactor Name: University of Wisconsin Nuclear Reactor
Fuel: Highly-enriched uranium
Power Level: 1 MW of power
Began Operating: 1961
Location: On the main campus in the center of downtown Madison, in the basement of the Mechanical Engineering building, surrounded by other academic buildings. Just south of the reactor is a five-level parking garage and Camp Randall Stadium, the university's 80,000-seat football stadium.
Security observations:No guards. No metal detectors. Bags were brought into the reactor room. Doors to the building are open during the day, and no IDs are required for entry. The building was undergoing major renovation, and construction workers, large trucks and building materials surrounded the rear exterior.
What We Found: The university Web site includes a "virtual tour" and detailed photos, descriptions and diagrams of the reactor, the fuel elements and the control room. The reactor manager informed the Fellows that tours had to be scheduled three weeks in advance and that a locked door with a window view of the reactor was the closest they could get. But a friendly professor told the Fellows about a basement entry to the reactor room, where a reactor operator opened the door and let the Fellows photograph the reactor from the doorway. Two other operators allowed the Fellows to come inside carrying their tote bags, and briefly take photographs about 15 feet from the reactor's base. No campus security ever approached the Fellows.
University reaction: Reactor Director Robert Agasie said there is an emergency plan, but refused to discuss it, citing federal regulations that prohibit the disclosure of such information.
Terry Devitt, director of research communications, said that ID, including a social security number, is required before anyone is allowed to enter the reactor facility and that tours must be pre-arranged in advance. No one is allowed in until their identity is verified, he said. "It can take weeks, sometimes months," Devitt said, adding that the policy has been in place since 2001.
When asked why the Fellows were able to get into the reactor lab room unannounced, Devitt said, "They were not in the lab." When told that videotape taken by the Fellows shows that they were inside the room, he insisted the reactor staff told him that the Fellows did "not get across the threshold."
Additional comment: "There is no security," said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy. "In this particular case, there was nothing there to even challenge."
The federal official responsible for security at the nation's campus reactors told ABC News there will be an investigation of security at the University of Wisconsin's reactor. "It warrants further review and we will do that," said Roy Zimmerman, director of the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "It does not please me."