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University of Utah student arrested in alleged threat to detonate school's nuclear reactor if football team lost, officials say

The 21-year-old student's statement made on a social media application was meant as a joke, she told investigators. But the university has a zero-tolerance policy for similar threats, authorities said.

A University of Utah student was arrested Wednesday and accused of making terroristic threats by posting on social media on the day of a Utes football game that she was going to detonate the nuclear reactor on campus if the team didn’t win, officials said.

The 21-year-old student posted the threat on the social media application Yik Yak, the university said in a statement.

A highly redacted report from university police identified the student as Meredith Miller.

“On Saturday, Sept. 17, the University of Utah Police Department was notified someone had posted a message on YikYak: ‘If we don’t win today, I’m detonating the nuclear reactor on campus,’” the statement said.

University police determined a student did post the message, and she was interviewed Wednesday, officials said.

“She acknowledged posting the statement and was arrested and taken to the Salt Lake County Jail and booked for making terroristic threats,” officials said.

Miller could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. It was unclear whether she had secured an attorney.

The student claimed her statement was meant as a joke, the university said; however, Police Chief Jason Hinojosa said in the statement, “We have a zero-tolerance policy for these kind of threats.”

The university’s nuclear reactor, Hinojosa said, is secured and it has alarms, and police have unique protocols for managing any breach.

A university spokesperson told NBC News on Thursday that the university has a nuclear engineering program, which is why there is a reactor on campus. According to the Energy Department, the University of Utah is one about 25 universities with nuclear reactors.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Hinojosa said police had no choice but to arrest the student, even if she was joking.

"Under state law, it doesn't matter. Even if they're completely incapable of carrying out the threat or the threat is made but an attempt is not, it's still the same charge."

Fans watch at the Utah Utes and the San Diego State Aztecs football game
The Utah Utes play the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday.Chris Gardner / Getty Images

He added that a university employee reported the threat, which was posted anonymously. Subpoenas and warrants were served, Hinojosa said, to obtain the IP address from which the threat was made, which led police to the student.

It is up to the district attorney's office to determine whether to pursue the case. No one with the prosecutor's office could immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

A representative of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office said the student was no longer in jail after having posted bail. The representative was unsure how much the bail was.

In August, another student at the university called in a bomb threat for the David Eccles School of Business during the first week of classes, officials said.

NBC affiliate KSL of Salt Lake City reported the 19-year-old student was arrested after he was also accused of using the Yik Yak application to make the bomb threat.

The Utes defeated San Diego State 35-7 on Saturday. The team’s record is 2-1.