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 Pennsylvania State University.
Reactor Name: Breazeale Nuclear Reactor
Fuel: Low-enriched uranium
Power Level: 1.1 MW
Began Operating: 1955
Location: A stand-alone facility near the chemistry building, student housing and a daycare center. Beaver Stadium, which seats 107,000 people, is half a mile away.
Security Observations: No armed guards. No metal detectors. No background checks. No searches. Tours are available. Student ID was an acceptable form of identification. A seven-foot high fence with a guard booth surrounds the building, but on one visit, the guard was observed sleeping.
What We Found: The Fellows observed a uniformed guard who appeared to be sleeping in a lawn chair outside the security booth. A pre-scheduled tour gave the Fellows access to the reactor pool and control room. The Fellows were able to hold sample fuel rods and photograph a model of the reactor. Bags and cameras were not allowed on the tour, but were not searched and were left just 30 feet away from the reactor, which was behind a locked door. At night, the guard booth was empty and the gate closed. The Fellows parked a car in a lot just six feet away from the building's fence for more than 10 minutes and were not approached or asked any questions.
University Reaction: The facility does not have a guard, but a "gate person," who serves an administrative purpose to control entry past the facility's gate, said C. Frederick Sears, the reactor director. He would not comment directly on security procedures. Sears said 2,000 to 3,000 people tour the reactor annually, including students and scout troops.
Additional Comment: The guard gate serves no true security purpose and a team of terrorists could be past the fence in "less than a minute," said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy. If the reactor were destroyed, people within a half a mile to a mile radius would be in trouble, he said.