Phi Beta Cons

Campus Nuke Reactors More Than a Touch Vulnerable

Give this a second to sink in: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to be safeguarding us, has been accused of playing down experts’ warnings about the risk of terrorist attacks on the reactors for doing nuclear research that are licensed on 26 of the nation’s higher education institutions.

So declareth an audit report from (bless it) the Government Accountability Office.
Many of these reactors run on enriched uranium, which terrorists could use in a nuclear attack. The cores of the reactors are quite accessible, often lying in open tanks and situated in buildings on heavily populated campuses. As the audit notes, detritus could be dumped into the tanks to block cooling channels and, although some reactors have barriers to protect against threats such as truck bombs, the “first responders,” if an alarm were triggered, would likely be unarmed campus police (or, in the unreassuring euphemism of the day, “peace officers”).
What, in the post-9/1l era, accounts for this alleged, potentially lethal underestimation on the part of the commission, which rebuts the GAO report without offering specifics? According to representative Christopher Shays, commission members are “making assumptions and wishing the threat away . . . They don’t want to burden the licensees.”
Fellow citizens, take in this proposition: Those responsible for protecting our students and nation from nuclear attack appear jittery about bothering horribly overworked campus leaders with cooperating on the puny details of protecting against a nuclear attack.
What is going on here? I for one find this story alarming and will be on the lookout for the unclassified version of the GAO report.


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