Radioactive Road Trip  

Posted by Big Gav

Today's "Sunday" program had an interesting piece on the lack of security at nuclear reactors at universities in the US. I'm glad my university didn't have a reactor, though no doubt some pro-nuke commenter will come along to try and explain why every town should have an unguarded nuclear reactor in it and that this is all quite safe.

Probably a good thing the terrorist menace is so exaggerated otherwise the world would be in big trouble...

The United States has gone overboard on security since 9/11, which is understandable. But there are problems. Little things like the lack of security on a wide range of nuclear reactors on American university campuses. A four-month ABC America News investigation found huge security holes at many of the little-known reactors at 25 colleges across the United States. Among the findings of the investigation: unmanned guard booths, a guard apparently asleep, unlocked doors, and guided tours that provided easy access to control rooms and reactor pools with radioactive fuel.

None of the reactors had metal detectors, and only two apparently had armed guards. Many of the schools permit vehicles to park near the reactor buildings, without inspection for explosives. A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which oversees the US campus research reactors, said the agency had opened an investigation into at least five of the universities.
...

ABC America conducted its investigation in conjunction with Carnegie Corporation of New York, which invited university deans at five schools to select two of their most promising journalism and government graduate students to work with ABC for the northern summer.

Professor Graham T. Allison of the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University said: "Highly enriched uranium that's vulnerable is an unacceptable threat to me, and to American citizens everywhere. We're as vulnerable as the weakest link in the chain." Professor Allison advised ABC on the project.

Nuclear safety experts say there is significant threat of sabotage, even at the facilities using low-enriched uranium. In the case of sabotage, a facility could, in effect, be turned into a so-called dirty bomb, which uses conventional explosives, such as dynamite, to spread radioactive material. Professor Allison said: "Explosive material plus radioactive material equals dirty bomb."

Most of the university reactors were built during the Cold War in an effort to demonstrate the peaceful uses of nuclear power. While smaller and less powerful than commercial nuclear power plants, the college reactors are considered a risk, given their radioactive material and location on crowded campuses, often in suburban and urban areas.

A former White House adviser, Matthew Bunn, said: "Research reactors aren't required to be protected against sabotage in the same kinds of ways that power reactors are. Security costs money and if you actually imposed serious security requirements on them, many of them would probably end up shutting down."

4 comments

The assertions of lack of security, possibility of theft of fuel, etc. have been debunked in detail in a series of posts at NEI Nuclear Notes.

So they are saying that the quoted story is all false ?

Even the footage of students walking in to the room with the pool that had the fuel rods in it ?

Who is the disinterested party - a TV network or a bunch of pro-nuclear commentators ?

The TV network is interested in ratings.

Think for yourself.

Why don't you think for yourself ?

TV networks are interested in ratings. The nuclear industry is interested in making nuclear power appear safe.

My question still stands - are you claiming the TV footage was faked ?

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