SCRIPT: Radioactive Road Trip 10/05

"Primetime's" Radioactive Road Trip. Here's Brian Ross.

BRIAN ROSS

It was in the Midwest that the radioactive road trip hit its first snag.

MELIA PATRIA, CARNEGIE FELLOW

It's Melia and Hsing. We are at Kansas State University. We were taking some shots of the library and a cop car, the Kansas police, backed into the back of us and wouldn't let us roll out.

BRIAN ROSS

It was a Kansas state police officer who finally challenged our graduate students at the library, not the nuclear reactor.

MELIA PATRIA

He said we fit a profile of two students who were visiting reactors.

BRIAN ROSS

After almost two weeks on the road, it was the first visible sign of a response in our investigation of security awareness at the country's 25 college nuclear reactors. And only after the students had discovered some serious security gaps at other schools. Only after.

RONALD TIMM, FORMER DOE SECURITY ANALYST

After doesn't count. After never counts. After says the system failed.

BRIAN ROSS

The two students who were finally challenged had begun their road trip in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University.

MELIA PATRIA

My name is Melia Patria. And I recently graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

HSING WEI, CARNEGIE FELLOW

My name is Hsing Wei. And I will have one more year at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University.

MELIA PATRIA

We're doing a self-tour of the campus. And we're very curious about ...

STUDENT

The nuclear reactor lab?

MELIA PATRIA

Yeah.

STUDENT

Well, what do you want to know?

MELIA PATRIA

I don't know. Do you guys give tours?

STUDENT

Sure.

BRIAN ROSS

If they were terrorists, they would be dangerous. Hsing and Melia were able to arrive unannounced at Ohio State and gain immediate access through the locked reactor security door.

MELIA PATRIA

No swimming in this area?

STUDENT

It's a joke.

BRIAN ROSS

Using their driver's licenses for ID and carrying large tote bags that were not checked until after the students were ten feet from the reactor pool that holds the radioactive fuel. There were no guards, no metal detectors.

HSING WEI

We were literally peering into the pool itself.

BRIAN ROSS

Ohio state says its reactor employee became suspicious when they saw the two young women taking these pictures of the parking lot, pictures that show a possible truck bomb scenario. Vehicles can park right next to the reactor building.

HSING WEI

That was probably the most shocking part. Literally, there's parking spaces right up against the side of the building.

BRIAN ROSS

The very next day, Melia and Hsing were able to gain the same easy access to the building housing Purdue University's nuclear reactor, a place licensed to hold three kilograms of highly-enriched weapons-grade uranium. It was accessed day and night.

MELIA PATRIA

Wide open.

BRIAN ROSS

And how did you find out?

MELIA PATRIA

We just tried the door. We visited again at midnight, at 11:00 PM, like on a Saturday. We went back on a Saturday. And each time it was open.

BRIAN ROSS

So no problem getting in the building?

MELIA PATRIA

No problem getting in the building at all.

BRIAN ROSS

And on a scheduled tour, Hsing and Melia were able this time to walk right into the reactor itself with their unchecked bags. Past a sign that said packages were subject to search.

MELIA PATRIA

But we walked in with our bags, and he saw us with our bags, and he didn't enforce the rule.

BRIAN ROSS

He didn't look inside the bag?

MELIA PATRIA

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