Nuclear power for the home...
February 1, 2002 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Nuclear power for the home... A group of woodcutters found an object that had melted the surrounding snow, so they drag it back home to warm the camp unfortunately turns out it was jam packed full of Strontium90...
posted by zeoslap (23 comments total)
posted by zpousman at 11:37 AM on February 1, 2002

I thought the state of public education was bad in the US!
posted by revbrian at 11:41 AM on February 1, 2002

Mmmm, jam.
posted by nicwolff at 11:43 AM on February 1, 2002

I'll tell you what, I am pro-nuclear power, but that's just fucking scary. You know that one of those guys is dead and the other two are busily checking out? Those things are hotter than hell. Reminds me of that reactor site in France where the dipshit rod technicians dumped all their spent uranium in a gully, which filled with rainwater and irradiated about a bazillion fish a couple miles downstream. Idiots!

X-Files Question of the Day: what are spheres filled with blazing-hot Strontium 90 doing laying around out in the middle of the woods a hundred miles from anywhere?
posted by UncleFes at 11:47 AM on February 1, 2002

Strontium-90 is an artifical element created through the fission of Uranium. Others include Cesium-137 and Cobalt-60.

S90, because it gives off so much heat is also used as a source of power in a thermoelectric generator. The article implies that it was sort of left behind from some old generator - perhaps just floated down a river.

Another example of the devastation caused by decay products which are "inadvertently" left behind is the devastation in a small town in Brazil in 1987 when some doctors left behind some Cesium-137.
posted by vacapinta at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2002

I blame the MeFi Cops.
posted by jpoulos at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2002

The half life of SR90 is about 27 years. The cyclinders may have been dumped anytime during the Soviet nuclear activity and still be very hot. When the iron curtain came down it was gradually revealed that the Soviets had virtually no environmental protection standards in place for traditional industry and pollution problems were (still are) unbelievable. There's no reason to believe they didn't just dump nuclear waste wherever it was convenient just like they dumped every other type of industrial waste. I'm sure more of these will be found as time goes on.
posted by plaino at 12:19 PM on February 1, 2002

More along these same lines in the tragic 1983 story of Vicente Sotelo Alardin, aka El Cobalto.
posted by youhas at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2002

Gah. I do remember a Time magazine article about eastern bloc pollution; there was a photo of a highway sign, in Cyrillic, that basically traslated to "Everyone on this highway, roll up your windows, turn off your ventilation sytems and drive as fast as you can for the next 90 kilometers."

Someone's got a LOT of work to do.
posted by UncleFes at 12:24 PM on February 1, 2002

Well, we know a bear shits in the woods... Now we must ask the question: What the hell has it been eating?!?!
posted by nagchampa at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2002

I remember reading that the devices were used to power unattended radio stations throughout the Soviet Union...
posted by daver at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2002

...radioactive numbers stations...
posted by NortonDC at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2002

i can see a new simpsons intro, with the family sitting around the glowing fireplace, full of metal cylinders.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:05 PM on February 1, 2002

As I read the article, it sounds like the UN experts are the ones who tried to use strontium-90 as a campfire.... either a few paragraphs have gone missing, or those experts could use a bit more training...
posted by ook at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2002

I can't believe it got this far without mention of the Darwin Awards...
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2002

Hey, at least they didn't bring it home and give it to their eat.
posted by Danelope at 1:36 PM on February 1, 2002

yuh. That is so scary.

eastern bloc pollution is frightening everywhere, I guess. I was in a former soviet republic this past fall and got to see all the sights - desolate fields full of industrial waste, oil derrick forrests, etc. And everywhere people just trying to keep going, herding their sheep around giant rusting frames...

Still. Nuclear power not being overseen properly is especially worrying. Nuclear power is worrying, period...
posted by mdn at 4:39 PM on February 1, 2002

posted by hellinskira at 4:41 PM on February 1, 2002

May somebody confirm that any object that glows in dark could contain radioactive material, or is that only a urban legend ?

I know that there's also bio-luminescence and I guess it's harmless, but I dunno how to tell a radioactive luminescence from a bio one.
posted by elpapacito at 5:07 PM on February 1, 2002

Doesn't anyone read the newspaper anymore? This was reported at least a week ago, maybe it was more...
posted by benh57 at 6:28 PM on February 1, 2002


I suppose you're aware that a man robbed a bank at knifepoint. After all, it was in the newspaper.

You do realize that not every paper carries the same stories, right?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:30 PM on February 1, 2002

Holy precedent -- if the criterion for discussing things on MeFi is that they haven't previously appeared in the newspaper, mathowie should be deleting hella more threads.

elpapacito: radioactivity is only associated with luminescence/phosphorescence in certain situations. Many things can be radioactive without glowing. By the same token, many of the things we use to make things glow are not actually radioactive. Radium is one of the materials that used to be used for things like watch dials. (The greater risk was not actually to the wearer; it was to the young women who painted the dials, and licked the brushes with their lips.) For a while watchmakers turned to non-radioactive phosphorus, then to a much less radioactive tritium compound, but the newest watches use an non-organic, non-radioactive earth compound that "soaks up" light and radiates it back out until it fades.

The really scary type of glow, though, is the sense of a sci-fi blue glow suffusing everything: this is Cherenkov radiation, and the glow is actually an optical effect of the radiation passing through your eye; it can also be seen in the water surrounding nuclear fuel rods. Cherenkov radiation was experienced by the workers in the recent Japanese processing facility accident. The bad news is that if you experience this otherworldly blue glow, you are almost certainly very badly irradiated and may die.

That said: I fail to see how people dying because of exposure to unmarked, improperly-disposed radioactive materials constitutes a Darwin award.
posted by dhartung at 10:01 PM on February 1, 2002

I hate the whole "darwin awards" concept and I think it's condescending and arrogant to assign these men one, especially.

[rant deleted.]
posted by palegirl at 11:51 PM on February 1, 2002

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