Barriers Keep Ohio State Reactor off Limits to Football Crowds

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sixty concrete barriers installed around Ohio State University's nuclear reactor laboratory are there for a reason other than to block illegal parking on football Saturdays.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a terrorism alert in place for university research reactors.

The Buckeyes played at home Saturday against Indiana.

NRC spokesman Jan Strasma would not comment on security recommendations, but said directives were issued to all reactor operators, including Ohio State's.

Earle Holland, Ohio State's director for research communications, said the outer perimeter was reinforced in early September as a preventative measure because the research reactor was ``one potential target of opportunity.''

Holland and Robert C. Glenn, spokesman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, said inspectors from the NRC visited Ohio State's reactor to assess its security.

"There have been no targeted threats,'' Strasma said. ``We have required upgraded security at nuclear plants, including research reactors.''

Holland said the barriers were installed "because there would be six home football games on campus. We have a stadium of 100,000 people a stone's throw away.''

The 33-year-old research reactor uses low-enriched uranium fuel, which is not considered nearly as hazardous as spent fuel from commercial reactors that generate electricity. Its nuclear-fuel core is submerged in water to dissipate heat and provide radiation shielding.