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Candidate tests threat

September 08, 2005|By: Alicia Robinson

Democratic congressional candidate John Graham has been saying since

last year that a nuclear reactor on UC Irvine's campus is a security

threat, but Wednesday, he upped the ante with his own mock terrorism

drill.

Graham, a UC Irvine business professor and candidate for the 48th

District House seat, parked by the reactor in an empty moving truck,

much like the one that blew up in 1995 in front of Oklahoma City's

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Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

"We basically drove Timothy McVeigh's truck up to the reactor and

parked it right adjacent to it," Graham said.

Graham was there for about 45 minutes, he said, and "nobody showed

up. That's scary."

The reactor's supervisor, George Miller, disputes that the

facility is a threat to residents. If this sounds familiar, it's

because Graham brought it up last fall, when he challenged former

Rep. Chris Cox for the seat Cox held since 1988.

Now Graham is one of 17 candidates running for the empty seat. Cox

left office in August to head the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The university's 250-kilowatt reactor was built in 1969. It's

small -- Miller contrasted it against San Onofre's 3,000-megawatt

reactor -- and it's only used for research.

After Graham brought up the issue in 2004, Cox toured the facility

and said he was satisfied with its safety. But Graham believes the

university at least should install cement barriers to prevent people

from driving trucks up to the building, or else decommission the

reactor.

"Certainly you can question my objectivity on political grounds if

you want," Graham said. "The way I see it, it's really a civic

responsibility. It's my job to point out things that are dangers to

me and my neighbors.... I also see it as a broader national issue

that needs to be raised."

Miller said he's not denying the building contains hazardous

materials, but other labs and campuses around the country also do,

and UCI's reactor has never had any safety-related incidents.

Contrary to Graham's assertion, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission

does inspect the reactor's security regularly, Miller said.

People may be more worried these days because of the recent

terrorist attacks in London, but those were on subways and buses -- a

small nuclear facility is not likely to be high on a list of

terrorist priorities, he said.

"I also am a resident on campus, and it doesn't bother me that

this is here," Miller said.

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