Skip to comments.Loose Nukes: ABC Goes Nuclear in Search of Ratings
Posted on 10/13/2005 12:31:54 PM PDT by freeperbaby
This week, ABC is running a story called "Loose Nukes" (Anybody remember Nuke LaLoosh? He should've been the anchor for this story.) Apparently the enviros feel their anti-nuke grip weakening and have turned to the ABC who has rushed in to help. The story is well nigh hysterical -- and hysterically inaccurate -- in its claims of porous security at America's nuclear facilities. If you live near one of these babies, yes indeedy you oughta run for your lives because security is akin to Swiss cheese. Or so says ABC. The story is basically running 24/7 all week -- GMA, Nightline, World News, Supernanny, Wife Swap, Housewives, Joanie Loves Chachi, you name it. Hey, when you've got a winner, go with it, right? Who cares if it's not true? This is entertainment!
Here's the set-up: Last Summer, a bunch of college interns hired by ABC attempted to penetrate the very public world of "TRTR". To the nuke world, these are the Test, Research and Training Reactors, essentially the university nuclear research facilities.
TRTR, says its website, "represents research reactor facilities across the nation from government, major universities, national laboratories, and industry." Its mission, it goes on to say, "is education, fundamental and applied research, application of technology in areas of national concern, and improving U.S. technological competitiveness around the world." So far, so good. As it turns out, a big part of TRTR's mission is to debunk the kind of hysteria sowed by ABC in this story. To that end, they do frequent tours of school groups of all ages, including patrician interns from elite schools trying to break out of J-school and into a network gig.
So these interns all surreptitiously contacted their local neighborhood TRTR and got themselves a tour. Kinda like surreptitiously contacting your Member of Congress for a tour of the White House or the Capitol. These are secure areas that welcome tours and do so with a constant eye toward security as you'll see. The interns took in "hidden" cameras and started bombarding their hosts with questions about security. Their hosts, rightfully suspicious, took the correct security steps and contacted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Lo and behold, the NRC replied to TRTR to say that their investigation revealed that these were nothing but a bunch of ABC hooligans out for some cheap journalistic thrills. But the NRC didn't end there, going on to scold the entire adventure:
"The NRC continues to believe that trying to gain access to reactor facilities under potentially suspicious circumstances, especially in the current threat environment, creates unnecessary concerns, diverts limited resources, and inappropriately distracts from high priority law enforcement activities."
Advantage NRC. In fact, the various members of TRTR who were subject to ABC's prank were all well aware of their visitors, right down to their license plate numbers. But truth be damned, ABC is undaunted, and still is running this journalistic drivel all week, all the time.
Under the "if it weren't so serious it would be hilarious" category is one part of the ABC piece that alleges even more hysterically that a gardener let these interlopers into a facility. He had a key to the reactor facility!!! Run!!! Keep running!!! Well, as it turns out, the "gardener" is a retired employee who still holds a Senior Reactor Operator's (SRO) license and who works part time at the facility. This is Dan Rather-Mary Mapes kind of fact checking. ABC should hang its head in shame on this piece.
Thanks to Eric McElwain of NEI for this -- a truly incredible story of sham journalism run amok. Their blog has fairly thoroughly covered story of this latest lapse in what's left of journalistic ethics.
Local newspaper in my area pulled a cherap stunt in a similar vein not too long after 9/11.
A no fly zone was declared over the Indian Point Nuclear facility, and the Times Herald Record dcided to 'test' it.
Here's how they tested it: They asked for special permission to fly into the no fly zone, received said permission, flew around for two hours, and then split.
Their initial story to get the permission was that they were doing a story on the facility and needed to be there.
Their 'article' comes out claiming that they 'flew for two hours over the reactor building for two hours before being challenged'.
The facility comes back with phone records and transcripts of the paper calling for permission to overfly the site.
Report Spurs A&M To Defend Security
Texas A&M University officials - bracing for a national TV news report about security at the Nuclear Science Center - gave assurances Wednesday that the campus facility and the radioactive materials inside are "safe and secure."
A&M was one of 25 colleges and universities investigated recently for ABC's Primetime news program. The reporters, all Carnegie fellows, were sent to nuclear facilities on those campuses to see how close they could get to the reactors.
The Primetime report claims that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is investigating possible security breaches at five of the 25 schools surveyed, with Texas A&M included, but an agency spokesman said Wednesday that is not accurate.
Texas A&M is not being investigated, nor are any other universities, according to Victor Dricks of the regulatory commission.
"The NRC is confident that the radioactive material in the research reactor at Texas A&M poses no danger to public health and safety, and the facility is well-protected," Dricks said.
The Carnegie fellows were allowed to join a guided tour of the Nuclear Science Center without showing identification or submitting to a background check, according to a written version of the Primetime report released Wednesday afternoon.
Texas A&M officials don't deny that it's easy to get in the Nuclear Science Center. About 2,000 people tour the facility near Easterwood Airport every year.
But the 1-megawatt reactor is "intrinsically safe," according to director Dan Reece, who explained that the equipment would shut down if it approached an unsafe level of power.
"It sits in 30 feet of water, so you're protected from whatever is coming out of the core," Reece said. "If you tried to turn a reactor into a bomb - if you try to make it more dangerous - all it does is get mad and turn itself off."
Another smaller reactor is housed at the Zachry Engineering Center on the main Texas A&M campus, but tours are not conducted there, Reece said.
Over the summer, Texas A&M changed procedure so that each person who tours the Nuclear Science Center has to give a name and show photo identification, university spokesman Steve Moore said. The change was made in response to the Primetime investigation, he said.
But, Moore also said, changes in security measures at the facility have been made periodically since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Changes will continue," he said. "It's prudent to look at it periodically and evaluate if you need to make changes."
The Primetime report states that some facilities allow vehicles to drive "in close proximity to the reactor buildings without inspection for explosives," but does not name the facilities. Moore said he's confident Texas A&M does not allow such a practice.
"We're not aware of anything like that," he said.
The report also states that the Carnegie fellows were told by a guide at the A&M facility that there were no guards on site.
Moore said the guide could have said that, but it's not true. Security is provided around the clock, although it's not always visible, he explained.
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