SCRIPT: Radioactive Road Trip 10/05

I'm Michelle Rabinowitz. And I just graduated from USC's Annenberg School.

BRIAN ROSS

On the final segment of the Radioactive Road Trip, Traci and Michelle managed to come back with a story that no one else had found, in addition to the growing questions about security.

MICHELLE RABINOWITZ

I think deep down I really hoped there would be a lot of security everywhere. That's just your instinct when you hear the word nuclear.

BRIAN ROSS

But like the other teams, they, too, found security lapses. This was the University of Utah in Salt Lake City late at night as Traci and Michelle approached the building housing the reactor.

TRACI CURRY

We were expecting, of course, that all the doors would be locked, and we tried the final door, and the door was open. It was about 12:30 AM and we walked in. And that was pretty scary, because it was late at night and we were able to walk in there all the way up to the door leading to the office where the reactor was located.

BRIAN ROSS

The reactor door itself was locked, but officials at the university would not answer our questions about why the outside door was unlocked.

BRIAN ROSS

Did anybody show up to question you?

TRACI CURRY

No.

BRIAN ROSS

But Traci and Michelle's story took a different turn when they arrived at the laid back campus of Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Student population 1,340. Traci and Michelle began to wonder why there are nuclear reactors on college campuses to begin with, especially at Reed which has no nuclear engineering department.

ROY ZIMMERMAN

They cover a whole myriad of activities. They're involved with cancer research and radio isotopes to help cancer patients.

BRIAN ROSS

Is there really a need for so many?

ROY ZIMMERMAN

Well, they serve different purposes.

BRIAN ROSS

But at Reed College, for instance, in Oregon, they don't have a nuclear engineering department. Why do they need a nuclear reactor?

ROY ZIMMERMAN

Again, that's something that I would need to do some additional - additional review on.

BRIAN ROSS

You're with the nuclear regulatory commission. You have these 25, you say they serve a useful purpose. What's the useful purpose served at Reed university?

ROY ZIMMERMAN

That's something I'd need to get back to you on.

BRIAN ROSS

Our students raised the same question about the need for such reactors at Washington State University. Its reactor at the edge of a cow pasture, is licensed to have as much as 20 kilograms of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium, almost enough to build a nuclear bomb.

TRACI CURRY

Tour guide told us that a lot of students probably don't even know it's there.

BRIAN ROSS

So the school does not have a nuclear engineering curriculum?

MICHELLE RABINOWITZ

No.

BRIAN ROSS

But it has a nuclear reactor?

MICHELLE RABINOWITZ

Yes.

BRIAN ROSS

According to the university's web-site, the reactor can be rented by the hour. The reactor director says the science performed here will save more lives than terrorists would be able to destroy. But the tour guide told Michelle and Traci the reactor had to take commercial business to keep going.

MICHELLE RABINOWITZ

Because there wasn't really a big need for it for research purposes, they took in business from lots of commercial sources.

BRIAN ROSS

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