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"D'oh!" or "Oh my God, we're all going to die!" ? Answered

This article from New Scientist raises the question posted in the title. Which response is more appropriate?


When I read the forum title, I thought you were talking about our newly inaugurated president!

Heh, heh! I'm an unreconstructed liberal, and have nothing but joy for our new leader's ascension :-)Do we really need more Messianic metaphors?

Oh, you and your messie metaphors! When he turns my water into a nice Merlot or Pinot, then I'll apologise!

I'm partial to a Carmeniere with dinner, or an Aleateco afterward....and who needs an apology?

Oh, I've said things (not on Instructables) that I should probably apologise for. I have verbally crucified the annoying....I mean, anointed one. But nothing a dry Cabernet couldn't fix!


9 years ago

So what exactly is in the jug (and how much)? Surely not elemental plutonium, since that would be a solid an inappropriate for a glass bottle. The closeup of the bottle is only slightly readable, and looks like it says:
  • <illegible>
  • <illegible> 1-15mg
  • ~ 20g.La+3

Apparently lanthanum fluoride was used as a carrier for the plutonium extraction process. That makes sense since all the lanthanides and actinides ("rare earth elements") have a strong mutual affinity.

So typical of your people :P

Oh, come on, you're not going to bring up Vieques again? I promise, I had nothing to do with that :-)

I just meant all scientists in general and all humans


9 years ago

I'm gonna print this up for my Dad, who worked at Oak Ridge during WWII. He was a Chem. Engineer straight out of college, completed basic and was then sent to the "Manhattan Engineer District." I think he'll get a kick out of it... or something.

Wow, that is seriously cool. If he was a ChemE at ORNL, I wonder if he worked on the design or implementation of the GC cascades (no, don't ask, he still can't talk about it).

Hypothetically, if he had mentioned anything (I'm not saying he did ;-) ), it would have involved the gaseous diffusion process and uranium isotopes... that's all I'll say. Not a big secret anymore...

His boss asked him once if he knew what was happening (everything being very hush-hush, even in the plant), and he mentioned some theoretical stuff he recalled from college. He was told to keep it to himself.

And safety standards? Nothing like today...

And safety standards?
I dunno, but the pic of the dude handling the bottle with just a pair of rubber and leather gloves holding the thing like it belonged to Howard Hughes seemed risky. I would at least expect those lead fire-fighting silver suits and a pooper-scooper pair of tongs, unless it doesn't matter when you get that close...

Which is a good contrast with what I wrote above. X-rays are highly penetrating (that's why you use them to make shadow images :-), and need much more substantial shielding.

Plutonium isn't actually that dangerous. It decays by alpha emission and MeV alphas are absorbed by really small thicknesses of material (a sheet of cardboard is good shielding!). In this case, the plutonium solution is in a bottle, so the radiation level from it would be pretty low. The danger of plutonium is getting it inside your system -- breathing dust from machining it, getting a little shard under your skin. In that case, it's in "direct contact" with your cells; alphas are highly disruptive when they hit complex organic molecules (like DNA).

Yeah, seriously. I hadn't noticed that picture...

..like it belonged to Howard Hughes..

I think that would definitely be "D'oh!"

More rolls eyes with a gentle sigh.

"Oh my God, we're all going to die!"

O_O Seriously, how can this be?!

You mean, how could the people running Hanford have been so cavalier? Sigh...that's is way too long a tale to fit into a forum discussion. Better that you should read some of the DOE, EPA, and independent reports on the issue. It is really appalling.