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April 17, 2006 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Nuking Mississippi. In 1964, the Atomic Energy Commission drilled a shaft into a salt dome near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and began the only test nuclear detonations in the eastern United States. Despite stories of radioactive frogs in the area, and locals remembering that the earth kicked up waves, the ground cracked, chimneys tumbled and the creeks turned black, officials insist that there are no lasting effects from the underground tests.
posted by gimonca (39 comments total)

 
did anybody else read "radioactive frogs" and think Blaster Master?
posted by radiosig at 9:05 PM on April 17, 2006


Ah, the Tatum salt dome detonations. Haven't affected me a bit. (Typing this in Hattiesburg with my three hands.)
posted by thebrokedown at 9:14 PM on April 17, 2006


The wording on this FPP is really terrible....very slanted. The radioactive frogs weren't actually radioactive from the bomb, but from a test error, and the creeks "turned black" because they were shaken up, not because they were poisonous. It was just silt.

And the black creeks article talks about how "Cancer has taken many of their friends, neighbors and family members." Well, duh! Cancer is one of the biggest killers of humans... of COURSE cancer killed a lot of them. Is there any evidence whatsoever that the cancer death rate is higher in that area, post-testing?

There's pretty strong evidence that long-term exposure to low levels of radiation is actually cancer-preventive. It would be interesting to determine if any radiation made it to the surface -- 2700 feet underground is certainly going to contain nearly all of it -- and if so, what the effects were on the population. The results may not be what you'd expect.

And the conclusion that there were no lasting effects, despite your 'officials insist' slant.... the word "insist", of course, is only necessary when someone is lying ... seems reasonable. At least, I think it's reasonable. It's pretty hard to parse.

Out of this whole post, there's only one line that worries me (from the end of the black creeks link):

"Follow-up drilling and testing contaminated soil, groundwater and equipment with radiation. Tons of radioactive debris was dumped into the salt dome and a deep aquifer."

Seems like putting radioactive materials into ground water is, um, not a good idea.
posted by Malor at 10:03 PM on April 17, 2006


According to news reports from the area, the nuke test also created a horrid leprechaun.
posted by kenlayne at 10:06 PM on April 17, 2006


Holy shit. I lived in Hattiesburg for years, but I had never heard of this.
posted by muckster at 10:08 PM on April 17, 2006


re: kenlayne's horrid leprechaun link:

What the fuck is wrong with this goddamn country? This is News!?
posted by odinsdream at 10:18 PM on April 17, 2006


After viewing the leprechaun video, it's mandatory to also view the inevitable YTMND.
posted by neckro23 at 10:21 PM on April 17, 2006


Ah... nuking Mississippi...

I've heard more people crack jokes about nuking the whole middle east, "torching that entire shithole into glass." Yet when I contemplate turning Mississippi into a giant cinder I have to confess I understand their longing.
posted by scarabic at 10:37 PM on April 17, 2006


This part makes me curious:

The second bomb, much smaller, was exploded two years later within the cavity created by the first blast.

For some reason, I've never pictured underground nuclear tests creating cavities for very long, much less for two years. How big of a cavity are we talking about? Where did all that earth go? Why didn't it just collapse?
posted by brundlefly at 11:30 PM on April 17, 2006


Oh, and good points, Malor.
posted by brundlefly at 11:30 PM on April 17, 2006


what do you have against mississippi, scarabic?
posted by Igor XA at 11:38 PM on April 17, 2006


I'd love to hear you tell the people of the Gulf Coast that right now, scarabic. Or, more to the point, a liberal Democratic resident. They do exist.

As a Miss native, I can only say that you can suck it.
posted by raysmj at 12:04 AM on April 18, 2006


Not just Mississippi
Not just the US
Not very benign.
posted by Rumple at 12:39 AM on April 18, 2006


Ah... nuking Mississippi...

I've heard more people crack jokes about nuking the whole middle east, "torching that entire shithole into glass." Yet when I contemplate turning Mississippi into a giant cinder I have to confess I understand their longing.


So what you're saying is you're no better than them?
posted by Snyder at 12:39 AM on April 18, 2006


There's pretty strong evidence that long-term exposure to low levels of radiation is actually cancer-preventive.

Hrmmm. Set off nukes and create toxins OR spend some time in the sun.

Such reasoning is similar to the reasoning that brings you phrases like "toxic sludge is good for you!"
posted by rough ashlar at 2:35 AM on April 18, 2006


rough ashlar: Go look it up... you'll see that workers exposed to long-term, low levels of radiation are healthier than those who aren't. One study of, um, I think it was dockworkers who worked with uranium, showed an average lifespan increase of something like 3.1 years, which really surprised the researchers. (they were expecting lifespan DECREASE, not increase.) They said it was almost the exact result you'd get if humans didn't get cancer.

They hypothesize that the human body, when exposed to some radiation (but not too much) does more cell-repair, and is better able to detect and kill off cancer when it occurs.

Past a certain point, the damage accumulates faster than the body can fix it, but it's pretty apparent that the 'lifetime radiation exposure' model isn't quite right.

Also, keep in mind that humans find radiation uniquely dangerous; something about how we evolved makes us very, very susceptible. Most plants and animals can survive a great deal more than we can. So, while WE might perceive the stuff as 'toxic sludge', most other plants and animals wouldn't. In fact, if they were smart enough to consciously choose, most would be quite happy to live around Chernobyl. A radiated area has few humans in it, and we are one hell of a lot more dangerous to them than stray neutrons.

Unfortunately, this is a very hard area to study, because people avoid radiation like crazy... and most experiments with radiation on humans would be considered unethical.

So we have to run from limited data, but the limited data we DO have suggests that a little bit of radiation is actually good for you.
posted by Malor at 3:26 AM on April 18, 2006


So we have to run from limited data, but the limited data we DO have suggests that a little bit of radiation is actually good for you.

Bioaccumulation of radioactive isotopes has been shown to be bad at any measurable volumes.

So the choice is:
Work about radioactive material

OR

Spend more time in the sun (avoid sunburn)

Interesting you keep choosing a 'design my home with granite' and stay out of the sun. Pro vampire or just a follower of the peacock?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:51 AM on April 18, 2006


If you want to have a look at what the Nevada Test Site looks like now, I have some images from Google Earth on my blog.
posted by sindark at 4:49 AM on April 18, 2006


ashlar: ".... has been shown to be bad at any measurable volumes".

Like I said, do the research. From what I've read, that may not be true.

The rest of your message is pure gibberish. You're using words from English, and you appear to be arranging them in proper sentences, but the result conveys no message. I'm not sure if you're trying to be cute or just trolling.
posted by Malor at 5:12 AM on April 18, 2006


The wording on this FPP is really terrible....very slanted. The radioactive frogs weren't actually radioactive from the bomb, but from a test error, and the creeks "turned black" because they were shaken up, not because they were poisonous. It was just silt.

No, you're reading too much into the FPP. It's a history post, not a polemic. Read all the links and you get a range of POV from people who live in the area, and a medical abstract as well.
posted by gimonca at 5:37 AM on April 18, 2006


I have a friend who worked on the later, conventional gas explosions. He tells a story about the first one of those, in which they filled the cavity with gas around an eletrical igniter, they flipped the switch to set off the explosion, and nothing happened. They kept trying, but nothing happened. They didn't know what was wrong and could not go into the chamber to check, but the gas started leaking out, and my friend spent several very tense days driving around the surrounding country having to have conversations warning people about the dangers from this leaking gas. Finally, almost a week later, they tried again and the explosion went off.
posted by OmieWise at 5:53 AM on April 18, 2006


Maybe not nuking Mississippi would be better? By anyone? Since the radioactive cavity is already there, can we store low level waste in it? Jobs for the people of Hattiesburg, jobs!

I do admit I'd like to incinerate all those Dixie cups that racist southeners have been saving for years in hopes "the south will rise again." :-)
posted by nofundy at 6:17 AM on April 18, 2006


what do you have against mississippi, scarabic?

Yeah! They outlawed slavery. Eventually.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2006


Rough ashlar--

the effect Malor is referring to is known within the radiation health physics community as "Hormesis", in which a study of dose versus discernable health effect shows that at low exposures there is actually less mortality than for the control groups subjected to zero exposures. We are largely talking here about external dosage, not internal uptake & subsequent body burdens.

An analog to this phenomenon is the past studies of tee-totalers versus moderate drinkers, wherein those drinking in moderation lived longer than those who never drank. This is an observed phenomenon, not hokum or big brother bullshit.

In the 1960's-70's my uncle studied 83 generations of mice at Los Alamos, subjecting them to cobalt 60 irradiation at no, small & large doses. When he observed a similar phenomena, he was attacked by the AEC biology community over the validity of his statistics. They were however, impeccable, and the resiults stood.

Some people often don't like to hear about this, because to them it smacks of government spin-doctoring, or confirms some conspiracy theory in their mind, but it's real. And yes, even within the health physics community there is still debate & disagreement.
posted by Pressed Rat at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2006


kirkaracha: So, I take it you're in favor of nuking all those obsese African-Americans, along with the fat white people, due to a symbolic action of the state legislature (led by a representative who happens to be black--who, by the way, would get nuked here too) and the legacy of chattel slavery in one particular state?
posted by raysmj at 7:51 AM on April 18, 2006


brundlefly: For some reason, I've never pictured underground nuclear tests creating cavities for very long

One of the first civilian uses proposed for atom bombs was to create cavities to be used as underground resevoirs, for natural gas, water, etc.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:48 AM on April 18, 2006


Yeah, scarabic, totally. Katrina wasn't enough. People who live in Mississippi deserve to die!
posted by sklero at 10:26 AM on April 18, 2006


March 16, 1995 in History: Mississippi House of Representatives formally abolishes slavery and ratifies 13th Amendment

OMFG.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 AM on April 18, 2006


Nuke to form cavities: would these cavities not be glass-lined, post-nuke? I should think the heat would seal them up pretty damn good.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:07 AM on April 18, 2006


Nuke to form cavities:

WE! NUKE! HOLES IN TEETH!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:33 AM on April 18, 2006


raysmj: Uh, no.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:18 PM on April 18, 2006


There was an even crazier idea with nuclear bombs and a big salt dome.

Powerplant. Drill a bunch of pipes into a salt dome, rigged so you can pump slurry down, have it cascade over a chamber, and back up. In the middle, you'd drill a bore and drop a nuclear bomb in to the chamber in the middle, and set it off.

WHAM. The bedrock around the bomb cavity becomes very hot from the energy of the bomb. Now, pump slurry into the hot rock, pull it back out (now hot) and use it to run generators. Keep doing this until there isn't enough useful extraction of heat.

Then, well, drop in another bomb and do it again.

This may not be the dumbest way to get power from fission, but it has to be close.
posted by eriko at 12:25 PM on April 18, 2006


Here's to the state of Mississippi,
For Underheath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy river, nameless bodies you will find.
Whoa the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin' when it reads the present time.
Whoa here's to the land you've torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!

Here's to the people of Mississippi
Who say the folks up north, they just don't understand
And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
The sweating of their souls can't wash the blood from off their hands
They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here's to the schools of Mississippi
Where they're teaching all the children that they don't have to care
All of rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
And every single classroom is a factory of despair
There's nobody learning such a foreign word as fair
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

Here's to the cops of Mississippi
They're chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door
Their bellies bounce inside them as they knock you to the floor
No they don't like taking prisoners in their private little war
Behind their broken badges there are murderers and more
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And, here's to the judges of Mississippi
Who wear the robe of honor as they crawl into the court
They're guarding all the bastions with their phony legal fort
Oh, justice is a stranger when the prisoners report
When the black man stands accused the trial is always short
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the government of Mississippi
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they're always bogging down
And criminals are posing as the mayors of the towns
They're hoping that no one sees the sights and hears the sounds
And the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the laws of Mississippi
Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay
While the Constitution is drowning in an ocean of decay
Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I've even heard them say
Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

And here's to the churches of Mississippi
Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
And the Sunday morning sermons pander to their lust
The fallen face of Jesus is choking in the dust
Heaven only knows in which God they can trust
Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of
posted by nlindstrom at 1:07 PM on April 18, 2006


nlindstrom: Congrats on knowing the lyrics to a very old song, written by a man who a few years later decided to dress up in the garb of white Miss. native Elvis and who had the notion that liberal piety and traditional protest was turning off middle America.
posted by raysmj at 1:29 PM on April 18, 2006


nlindstrom, it is entirely uncool to rip off someone else's work wholesale, presenting it as one's own.

At the very least they should be italicized or blockquoted to indicate that they are not actually your own lyrics.

For such a long passage, it only makes sense to actually put the lyricist's name at the end of it.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:03 PM on April 18, 2006


Go look it up... you'll see that workers exposed to long-term, low levels of radiation are healthier than those who aren't.

Malor, while I tend to believe you, nothing irks me more than people who make a statement and then tell others to "look it up". The onus is on you, not us, to provide references that support your claim.
posted by randomstriker at 9:51 PM on April 18, 2006


random, it looked (and looks) to me that rough ashlar was just trolling, so it wasn't really worth the effort. You don't seem trollish, though.

I went and looked, and there's lots of 'scare papers' about how low-level radiation will kill thousands of people. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of facts on the ground, though, just theories. I found a paper that's written for normal people; it claims that low-level radiation doesn't appear to be that harmful. They mention the hormesis effect (low levels of radiation being good for you) as one of three possible models, none of which has yet been proven.

The author points out that all of the existing literature extolling the 'number of deaths from radiation exposure' are assuming that the linear-exposure model is right.... ie, that ANY exposure is bad, no matter how small. But that has not been shown to be the case. Whatever low-level radiation's actual effects might be, they're apparently quite small and very hard to measure without studying a lot of people.

There's no doubt whatsoever that high doses are bad, and we understand a lot about that, but this author claims we can't make accurate predictions yet about low-level exposures.

That indicates to me that the effect must be pretty minimal.
posted by Malor at 12:28 AM on April 19, 2006


Yowtch. Could we hate my state a little more? I don't quite feel unloved enough.
posted by nile_red at 7:08 AM on April 19, 2006


I'm with ya nile_red. Suck it, haters.
posted by Carbolic at 2:58 PM on April 19, 2006


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