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 Idaho State University.
Reactor Name: Idaho State University Research Reactor Facility
Began Operating: 1967
Fuel: Low-enriched uranium
Power Level: 0.05 kW of power. This is one of the nation's lowest power campus research reactors.
Location: In the basement of the Lillibridge Engineering Building, near the student union. Across the street from a Catholic chapel, three blocks from a daycare center. Less than two blocks from a residential neighborhood.
Security Observations: No guards. No metal detectors. No searches. No ID requested. Building doors open during the day, locked at night. Reactor room door was locked. What appeared to be a security camera bubble was located in the lab, but the Fellows were able to videotape unchallenged.
What We Found: During the day, doors to the building were unlocked. The doors to the nuclear engineering laboratory, which houses the reactor, were wide open and unlocked. The door to the reactor room itself was locked, but had two narrow glass windows through which the Fellows could see and videotape the reactor. Doors to the engineering building were locked at night.
University Reaction: In addition to the reactor, the engineering building has classrooms and labs and during the day "is open for business," said Dr. John Bennion, reactor supervisor. He said that the nuclear laboratory door is sometimes open if students are working in the vicinity and there is traffic in and out of the lab. Otherwise, he said, the door is locked.
Bennion would not comment on the reactor's security plan or whether there is a surveillance camera in the laboratory.
He said that tours are available for groups, such as students or scout troops.
Bennion said he does not believe the reactor is a danger to the community and that it is very small and operates at low power. He said the security plan was changed after 9/11 and that the lab works with local law enforcement and the FBI.
Additional Comment: "It takes 20 to 30 seconds to get through a window," said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy. A terrorist could conduct undetected surveillance of the area, Timm said, then return with the necessary tools and equipment to breach the door.