adactio / tags / nuclear

Tagged with “nuclear” (17)

  1. 99% Invisible: Ten Thousand Years

    https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/ten-thousand-years/

    In 1990, the federal government invited a group of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. They would be there on assignment.

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the nation’s only permanent underground repository for nuclear waste. Radioactive byproducts from nuclear weapons manufacturing and nuclear power plants. WIPP was designed not only to handle a waste stream of various forms of nuclear sludge, but also more mundane things that interacted with radioactive materials, such as tools and gloves.

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  2. Radioactive Art

    Radioactive waste can remain dangerous to humans for 100,000 years. Nations with nuclear power are building underground storage facilities to permanently house it, but how might they mark these sites for future generations? The nuclear industry is turning to artists for creative solutions. How might artists create a warning that will still be understood and heeded so far into the future? Radioactive Art meets artists whose work deals with issues around nuclear legacy, and visits the nuclear agency in France that has sought their input.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04vg4f2

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  3. Nukes - Radiolab

    President Richard Nixon once boasted that at any moment he could pick up a telephone and - in 20 minutes - kill 60 million people. Such is the power of the US President over the nation’s nuclear arsenal. But what if you were the military officer on the receiving end of that phone call? Could you refuse the order?

    This episode, we profile one Air Force Major who asked that question back in the 1970s and learn how the very act of asking it was so dangerous it derailed his career. We also pick up the question ourselves and pose it to veterans both high and low on the nuclear chain of command. Their responses reveal once and for all whether there are any legal checks and balances between us and a phone call for Armageddon.

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/nukes/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  4. Podcast Episode 83: Nuclear Close Calls - Futility Closet

    In 1983, Soviet satellites reported that the United States had launched a nuclear missile toward Moscow, and one officer had only minutes to decide whether to initiate a counterstrike. In today’s show we’ll learn about some nuclear near misses from the Cold War that came to light only decades after they occurred.

    We’ll also hear listeners’ input about crescent moons and newcomers to India, and puzzle over the fatal consequences of a man’s departure from his job.

    Sources for our feature on Stanislav Petrov and Vasili Arkhipov:

    Pavel Aksenov, “Stanislav Petrov: The Man Who May Have Saved the World,” BBC, Sept. 26, 2013.

    Lynn Berry, “Russian Who ‘Saved the World’ Recalls His Decision as 50/50,” Associated Press, Sept. 17, 2015.

    “Soviet Officer Honored for Averting Nuclear War,” Toledo Blade, May 22, 2004.

    Mark McDonald, “Cold War, Cool Head,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 26, 2004.

    Ben Hoyle, “The Russian Who Saved the World,” Southland Times, May 22, 2015, 7.

    Glen Pedersen, “Stanislav Petrov, World Hero,” Fellowship, July/August 2005, 9.

    “JFK Tried to Drive Wedge Between Cubans, Soviets,” Toledo Blade, Oct. 13, 2002.

    “Papers: Annihilation Narrowly Averted,” Lawrence [Kan.] Journal-World, Oct. 12, 2002.

    “Revealed: Soviet Sub Almost Attacked in ’62,” Peace Magazine, January-March 2003, 31.

    Listener mail:

    The Museum of London’s exhibition The Crime Museum Uncovered runs through April 10, 2016.

    Wordnik defines griffinism as “In India and the East, the state or character of a griffin or new-comer.”

    This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Andrew H., who sent these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

    http://www.futilitycloset.com/2015/11/30/podcast-episode-83-nuclear-close-calls/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  5. 99% Invisible Episode 114: Ten Thousand Years

    In 1990, the federal government invited a group of  geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. They would be there on assignment.

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the nation’s only permanent underground repository for nuclear waste. Radioactive byproducts from nuclear weapons manufacturing and nuclear power plants. WIPP was designed not only to handle a waste stream of various forms of nuclear sludge, but also more mundane things that interacted with radioactive materials, such as tools and gloves.

    WIPP, which is located deep in the New Mexico desert, was designed to store all of this radioactive material and keep us all safe from it.

    Eventually, WIPP  will be sealed up and left alone. Years will pass and those years will become decades. Those decades will become centuries and those centuries will roll into millennia. People above ground will come and go. Cultures will rise and fall. And all the while, below the surface, that cave full of waste will get smaller and smaller, until the salt swallows up all those oil drums and entombs them. Then, all the old radioactive gloves and tools and little bits from bombs –all still radioactive– will be solidified in the earth’s crust for more than 200,000 years. Basically forever.

    Storing something safely forever is a huge design problem; in fact, the jury’s still out on whether WIPP has solved the basics of the storage problem at all. In February of 2014, a leak was detected at WIPP which exposed several workers to radiation and WIPP has been closed since. The Department of Energy now predicts that it could be up to three years before WIPP is fully operational again.

    We know these facts because we can look them up and read the news in a shared language. The problem that the aforementioned panel was convened to address was how to communicate this information to people 10,000 years in the future.

    This WIPP site is going to be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, though this panel was only responsible for keeping this place sufficiently marked for humans for the next 10,000 years—thinking beyond that timeframe was thought to be impossible.

    Though 10,000 years in the future is still fairly inconceivable. 10,000 years ago, the biggest new technology spreading across the planet was farming. Culturally, we share almost nothing with people alive back then. Who knows the world will look like 10,000 years from now?

    The panel began by thinking about language. But language, like radioactive materials, has a half life. Beowulf, from only 1,000 years ago, is incomprehensible today.

    The panel also considered symbols, which seemed like they might be more universal. A smiley face seems to have a global appeal. And face logos have already been used as warnings.

    Carl Sagan (who was invited to participate on the panel but had a schedule conflict) sent the WIPP panel a letter saying this whole marker problem was easily solved with the right symbol, and he knew just the one: the skull and crossbones.

    But symbols can also shift over time. The skull and crossbones actually began not as a symbol of death, but a symbol of rebirth. The earliest uses of it are in religious paintings and sculptures from uh middle ages. At the foot of the cross where Jesus is crucified, there lies a skull with two bones in the shape of a cross, not an ‘x.’ The skull is supposed to be that of Adam.

    A few centures later, ship captains started to draw little skull and cross bones in their logs, next the names of sailors who had died at sea. Sailors came to associate the symbol with death.

    Fast forward another century. Pirates realized they could use symbolism to terrify their targets into compliance. But there were several different designs besides the “jolly roger” that pirates used, including an hourglass, and a bleeding heart. The banner of Edward Teach (also known as “Blackbeard”) had both.

    Then, in 1720, a pirate named Calico Jack Rackham was captured and put on trial. The trial was the sensational story of the day, and everyone in England was talking about it. And it just so happened Calico Jack’s symbol was the Jolly Roger, though in his case the bones were replaced with a pair of crossed swords.

    After that trial, the skull and crossbones permeated culture as a symbol of danger. By the late 1800s, it was starting to be used as a symbol for poison. Then in the 1940s, the Nazis adopted it for their SS death head divisions.

    The skull and crossbones came to be associated with danger and death around the world. But its meaning didn’t truly become a universal. In the last few decades, the Jolly Roger has gone mainstream. Now you’ll see it on backpacks, toddler onesies, and even on water bottles. So much for indicating poison.

    Ruling out language and symbols, the panelists thought about using some visual storytelling. Panelist Jon Lomberg thought you could define the radioactive trefoil symbol with a sequence of events.

    But if you read that comic strip from the bottom up, it looks like the man has found the fountain of youth!

    Another panelist, a landscape artist and architect named Mike Brill, realized that we they actually need to transmit information into the future.  They just needed to make people scared of being in this dangerous place. He envisioned huge needles jutting up from the ground—a “landscape of thorns.”

    But there’s no way of knowing that this ominous landscape won’t become an attraction in itself and actually invite people to explore it.

    The most hands-down 99pi favorite solution, though, didn’t come from the WIPP brainstorm—rather, it came out of the Human Interference Task Force, a similar panel that was pulled together in 1981 for the now-defunct Yucca Mountain project. It was proposed by two philosophers, Françoise Bastide and Paolo Fabbri.

    Bastide and Fabbri came to the conclusion that the most durable thing that humanity has ever made is culture: religion, folklore, belief systems. They may morph over time, but an essential message can get pulled through over millennia.  They proposed that we genetically engineer a species of cat that changes color in the presence of radiation, which would be released into the wild to serve as living Geiger counters. Then, we would create folklore and write songs and tell stories about these “ray cats,” the moral being that when you see these cats change colors, run far, far away.

    This is all a lot of effort to protect people we that our great great great grandkids will never know. All while people now, in our own time, are already harmed by the results of nuclear weapons manufacturing.

    The town of Tallevast, Florida is a small, predominantly African-American community south of Tampa, Florida. In the 1960s, a beryllium processing plant was set up in the middle of town to manufacture components for nuclear bombs and build pieces of the Hubble space telescope. It turned out that this plant was never very good about dealing with its waste.**

    Tallevast residents started noticing that a lot of people were getting diagnosed with cancer and other diseases including berryliosis, which you get from exposure to beryllium. Tallevast filed a lawsuit against the company that owns the plant, Lockheed-Martin. Lockheed spent years dragging the out the suit.

    Lockheed-Martin happens to be the parent company of Sandia National Labs, the corporation that runs the WIPP site in New Mexico.

    Which kind of makes you wonder if the best way to protect people 10,000 years from now is to just make sure we take care of people alive today.

    99% Invisible contributor Matthew Kielty spoke with Artist Jon Lomberg; archaeologist Maureen Kaplan; and Roger Nelson, the chief scientist overseeing WIPP.

    ORIGINAL MUSIC provided by musician Emperor X. His song “Don’t Change Color, Kitty” is guaranteed to get stuck in your head for the next 10,000 years. The song is just one piece of his brand new EP, 10,000-Year Earworm to Discourage Settlement Near Nuclear Waste Repositories available now at Bandcamp.

    Thanks also to Steve Lerner, author of Sacrifice Zones; to Robb Moss, who has a film forthcoming about WIPP; Matt Stroud and Jordan Oplinger at The Verge; and Abe Van Luick at the Department of Energy.

    http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/ten-thousand-years/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  6. How Churchill went atomic and currents in science writing: The Guardian Books Podcast

    Has the gilt rubbed off the golden age of science writing? And why has an award-winning writer turned his focus from scientific biography to political history? Graham Farmelo, who won the Costa biography award with his life of the quantum genius Paul Dirac, joins us to discuss his book about the "hidden" history of Winston Churchill and the nuclear bomb. He explains why Churchill’s role in the history of atomic weapons should not be underestimated, introduces us to some of the eccentrics who briefed him, and tells how the term "atomic bomb" was invented by a novelist years before they even existed.

    We also hear from Uta Frith, one of the panel judging the Royal Society’s Winton prize for science writing, about the books on this year’s longlist. And Guardian science writer Ian Sample – a former Winton shortlistee – explains why the last thing he wants to do when he’s relaxing is read a book about science.

    http://www.theguardian.com/books/audio/2013/sep/20/churchill-atomic-currents-science-writing-podcast

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  7. Irwin Redlener on surviving a nuclear attack

    The face of nuclear terror has changed since the Cold War, but disaster-medicine expert Irwin Redlener reminds us the threat is still real. He looks at some of history’s farcical countermeasures and offers practical advice on how to survive an attack.

    About Irwin Redlener

    Dr. Irwin Redlener spends his days imagining the worst: He studies how humanity might survive natural or human-made disasters of unthinkable severity.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/irwin_redlener_warns_of_nuclear_terrorism.html

    —Huffduffed by adactio

  8. Richard Rhodes: Twilight of the Bombs

    The evening began with a short version of Isao Ishimoto’s animation of all the world’s atomic explosions in the period 1945 to 1998. The total is shocking to most people—-2,053. Rhodes commented that seeing the bomb tests on a world map over time shows how much they were a strange form of communication between nations. He also noted how the number of tests dropped from decades of intensity to near zero after 1993. In this century only North Korea has tested bombs, and those could be the last explosions.

    Most Americans, he’s found, think that we don’t have nuclear weapons any more, and that may reflect a realistic perception that we no longer need them. But our government keeps looking for reasons to keep them, and maintaining the current much reduced arsenal still costs $50 billion a year.

    How much did the Cold War cost everyone from 1948 to 1991, and how much of that was for nuclear weapons? The total cost has been estimated at $18.5 trillion, with $7.8 trillion for nuclear. At the peak the Soviet Union had 95,000 weapons and the US had 20 to 40,000. America’s current seriously degraded infrastructure would cost about $2.2 trillion to fix—-all the gas lines and water lines and schools and bridges. We spent that money on bombs we never intended to use—-all of the Cold War players, major and minor, told Rhodes that everyone knew that the bombs must not and could not be used. Much of the nuclear expansion was for domestic consumption: one must appear "ahead," even though numbers past a couple dozen warheads were functionally meaningless.

    Rhodes noted that people fear the blast and radiation effects of atomic bombs, but it’s really the fires that are most destructive. The fireball ignites everything far beyond the blast effects. As a result, nuclear winter remains a threat. Former researchers of nuclear winter used sophisticated new climate models to assess what would happen if, say, there was an exchange of 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs (1.5 kilotons) between India and Pakistan. The smoke clouds would disrupt the weather long enough to collapse some agriculture, leading to starvation of as many as a billion people.

    Serious efforts are underway to get the world’s nuclear weapons down toward zero. All weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) is being tallied and secured. Sophisticated, unrestrained inspection systems are gaining ever more access. In some cases, arsenals are being "virtualized"—-nuclear capability substitutes for weapons stockpiles. India and Pakistan, for instance, have disassembled their nuclear weapons into widely separated parts that would take considerable time and deliberation to reassemble.

    In the course of his research, Rhodes shifted from opposition to nuclear power for electricity to becoming a strong proponent. Among its benefits is offering a way for the thousands of warheads to be converted into something useful when diluted into large quantities of reactor fuel. Also the international fuel banking proposed for bringing proliferation-free nuclear power to developing nations can help enable more thorough inspections of all fissile material.

    At dinner Rhodes reflected that nuclear weapons may come to be seen as a strange fetishistic behavior by nations at a certain period in history. They were insanely expensive and thoroughly useless. Their only function was to keep a bizarre form of score.

    http://longnow.org/seminars/02010/sep/21/twilight-bombs/

    —Huffduffed by adactio

Page 1 of 2Older