SCRIPT: Radioactive Road Trip 10/05

Tonight an invitation to join "Primetime" on a cross-country road trip and one we think is unlike any one you've ever seen before. It will have some familiar ingredients: students, souvenir pictures, kids up all night, but a very different destination. The assignment: to see how hard or easy it is to infiltrate nuclear reactors on college campuses. You may not know that these reactors are all over the nation and filled with just the kind of radioactive materials that terrorists want. As you watch this stunning investigation, remember how America lectures other countries on protecting their nuclear materials. And another note, before you write us those letters saying we've given the terrorists a playbook, you should know that six weeks ago, we disclosed our findings to the 25 universities and to officials in Washington, so they could fix the problems before the broadcast aired. So now, ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross sets off down the road on a radioactive road trip, beginning with an all-American football game.


Football Saturday at the University of Florida. 88,000 people in one of the country's biggest stadiums in one of the great American fall traditions. Just 200 yards away from the makings of a potential dirty bomb in this unguarded campus building, a building that houses in its basement a little-known nuclear reactor run on highly enriched weapons-grade uranium.


There is nothing on earth more dangerous than weapons-grade nuclear material.


Yet, as part of an ABC News investigation, two journalism graduate students were able to show up unannounced and gain access in only about five minutes, carrying with them large bags that were not searched for weapons or explosives. A terrorist's dream according to the head of a nuclear watchdog group, Dan Hirsch.


A terrorist with a little bit of explosives in a backpack like that student would be able to release a vast amount of radioactivity in a very populated area. It would be a coup.


There are 25 college campuses with nuclear research reactors, and our investigation found gaping security holes at many of them. Unmanned guard booths, unlocked doors, and again and again, easy access with no background checks, no metal detectors to reactors using some of the most dangerous material in the world. This is the blue glow of radioactive uranium being kept cool at the bottom of a pool of water.


This is how it was 20 years ago. This is not how it should be after 9/11.


We conducted our investigation with the help of the non-profit Carnegie Corporation and ten graduate students selected to serve as Carnegie fellows assigned to ABC News for the summer. The students began their research as terrorists might. Using the Internet for a surprisingly large amount of detailed information about the location, operation and personnel at the nuclear reactors.


Once I knew the name of the reactor, it was a gold mine. All the information was there.


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