University of Utah student threatened to set off explosion if football team lost game, police say

The 21-year-old engineering student was arrested on suspicion of making a terroristic threat.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah defeated San Diego State at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

A University of Utah student has been arrested after police say she threatened to detonate a nuclear explosion if the Utes football team did not beat San Diego State last Saturday.

According to University of Utah police, the 21-year-old engineering student made that threat on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media app, before the Utes played the Aztecs on Sept. 17.

“If we don’t win today, I’m detonating the nuclear reactor on campus,” the post read.

A person who saw the Yik Yak post viewed it as “suspicious” and reported it to police, according to a police report. It is unclear how investigators tracked down the poster’s identity. But police said the woman arrested “has knowledge of the nuclear reactor” on campus, according to a probable cause statement, “and attends class in the same building where the reactor is housed.”

When she was questioned on Wednesday, the woman acknowledged posting the statement but told police it was intended as a joke. In a statement Thursday, University of Utah Police Chief Jason Hinojosa said, “We have a zero-tolerance policy for these kinds of threats.”

The university said in a statement Thursday that its 50-year-old nuclear engineering program “performs ongoing, cutting-edge research.” According the statement, the reactor “uses inherently safe, self-limiting, low-enriched uranium TRIGA fuel.”

“It is immersed in a large water tank and is nearly impossible to damage,” the statement continued, and all personnel who use it must undergo background checks.

(University of Utah) The University of Utah's nuclear reactor uses inherently safe, self-limiting, low-enriched uranium TRIGA fuel, officials said.

Program director Glenn E. Sjoden said the reactor is “inherently safe,” adding that “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,” noting that “law enforcement will take any action necessary to mitigate any threat made.”

The Utah team beat San Diego State 35-7 last Saturday.

The woman arrested was booked into Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of making a terroristic threat. Her bail was set at $5,000.