Engineering student arrested after threatening to 'detonate nuclear reactor' if football team lost

Posted at 10:47 AM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 19:44:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A University of Utah student was arrested Wednesday for allegedly threatening to detonate a nuclear reactor if the school's football team lost their game.

Meredith Miller, 21, now faces one count of threat of terrorism, a second-degree felony.

Arresting documents detail that Miller is an engineering student at the University of Utah and allegedly posted on the social media platform YikYak that if the University of Utah did not win their game, she would "detonate the nuclear reactor that is located in the University of Utah causing mass destruction," court documents state.

Her alleged threat was posted on September 17, the same day that the University of Utah played San Diego State. The Utes won the game with a final score of 17-35.

Documents state that because Miller is an engineering student, she "has knowledge of the nuclear reactor" and knows where the reactor is located.

Austin Neff, a junior at the University of Utah was shocked to hear about the threat.

"That is very disturbing, that is totally messed up" said Neff.

It was a sentiment echoed by freshman Danielle Hayward.

"It is very bizarre to me, I don't know why people would do that," said Hayward.

A photo of the TRIGA Reactor in the Nuclear Engineering program was released by the university.

TRIGA Reactor.jpg

University of Utah leaders issued a statement Thursday saying the school has a zero-tolerance policy for those kinds of threats.

"Although the student said her statement was meant as a joke, 'we have a zero-tolerance policy for these kinds of threats,'" said Chief Jason Hinojosa in a part.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Interim Chief Hinojosa said it would have been impossible to detonate the reactor on campus. He went on to say this was a unique threat, since there had never been one involving the reactor.

"Even if they are completely incapable of carrying out the threat or if the threat is made and an attempt is not, it is still the same charge," said Interim Chief Hinojosa.

Interim Chief Hinojosa says it's a good reminder to be aware of what can happen when you post things like this on social media.

"If it was meant as a joke, you know given the wording the actual post, if the Utes don't win, so yeah, I think it is a good message to be careful of what you post," said Interim Chief Hinojosa.

"I hope people pay more attention to what people post, if there is something suspicious that they tell someone about it," said Hayward.

The reactor is immersed in a large water tank, university officials said, and it's nearly impossible to damage.

“The reactor is inherently safe," said Director of the Nuclear Engineering program Glenn Sjoden. "It provides a unique vehicle to performing state-of-the-art research in nuclear engineering and technology, and has been so for the past 50 years here in Salt Lake City.”

Leaders also noted that the nuclear reactor housed at the university is secured and alarmed and there are unique protocols for managing a breach of the facility.

“However, idle threats made to the facility are treated seriously, and we encourage folks to really bear in mind that nuclear facilities are always treated with the utmost respect and safety," Sjoden said. "Therefore, the government and law enforcement will take any action necessary to mitigate any threat made.”

Miller was arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Wednesday, police say she has since been released.