University of Utah

ByABC News
July 29, 2005, 7:10 AM

— -- 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 the University of Utah.

Reactor Name: Center for Excellence in Nuclear Technology, Engineering and Research (CENTER)

Began Operating: 1975

Fuel: Low-enriched uranium

Power Level: 100 kW

Location: In the basement of the Merrill Engineering Building, across the street from a residential neighborhood and about a half a mile away from two hospitals, University Hospital and Primary Children's Medical Center. The 45,000-seat Rice-Eccles Stadium is three-quarters of a mile from the reactor.

Security Observations: No guards. No metal detectors. Tours available. No background check. Names and addresses given, but no IDs requested. Bags had to be left in office. Surveillance camera in hallway.

What We Found: A tour scheduled one week in advance gave access to the reactor pool and control room. Fellows were able to bring cameras on tour. On a return visit at about 12:30 a.m., a basement entrance to the building was unlocked. A security camera was located in a hallway leading to the reactor room, but the Fellows were able to videotape in the hallway at night unchallenged. The door to the reactor facility was locked.

University Reaction: Giving tours does not compromise reactor security, according to reactor director Melinda P. Krahenbuhl. She would not discuss security, except to say that there is a plan in place. Security was reassessed even before 9/11, due to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, she said.

Additional Comment: "Very poor risk management," said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy. The facility, which was considered enough of a risk to be shut down during the 2002 Winter Olympics, could still be a target, Timm said.