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 Florida.
Reactor Name: University of Florida Training Reactor (UFTR)
Fuel: Highly-enriched uranium, possession limit of 4.8 kg.
Power Level: 100 kW
Began Operating: 1959
Location: Inside the Nuclear Science Building, near the student union and across the street from the 88,500-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as "The Swamp," home to the Florida Gators football team.
Security Observations: No guards. No metal detectors. No background check. Tours available with little or no advance notice. Student IDs were sufficient for a full reactor tour. Bags were not searched but had to be left behind in an office connected to the reactor room. Cameras were not allowed on the tour. Cars can be parked in front of and next to the building.
What We Found: With no advance notice and carrying large tote bags, the Fellows were taken through three locked doors and given a full tour of the reactor and the control room. The bags, which were not searched, were left behind in an office connected to the reactor room.
The doors to the building were unlocked during the day, and once inside, the Fellows were able to film the reactor room through glass windows without being questioned. After 10 p.m. doors to the building were locked, and university students entered and exited with keys. Parking a vehicle at night for 10 minutes next to the building did not attract attention.
An ABC News producer was able to film unchallenged outside the reactor facility during the opening day game of the University of Florida football season.
University Reaction: Reactor Director Dr. William Vernetson would not comment on security. He said he does accept student IDs for small group tours and that he required the Fellows to leave their bags behind in an office connected to the reactor room, although he acknowledged that the bags were not searched. He did not consider the car to be parked close enough to the building to be a concern. He noted the building is usually locked after hours, although it is not required to be.
There is an extensive plan in place to secure the reactor, which was updated after 9/11, said Lt. Joe Sharkey of the University of Florida Police Department. "Even though it's a small reactor, we have to protect it as if it's a large reactor," he said. Procedures are taken to protect the reactor on game days and during other events, he said.
Additional Comment: The Fellows were able to reach "basically ground zero" of the reactor, said Ronald E. Timm, a veteran security consultant who has analyzed the vulnerability of the nation's nuclear laboratories for the Department of Energy. "They could blow it up."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it is investigating a possible breach of federal security rules at the reactor.