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552 comments

Mystery Pits (3, Informative)

Gonzotek (206051) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554501)

"But sloppy work by the contractors running the site saw all kinds of chemical and radioactive waste indiscriminately buried in pits underground over the 40 years Hanford was operational, earning it the accolade of the dirtiest place on Earth."
Oh, great. :)

Re:Mystery Pits (4, Funny)

Bozzio (183974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554561)

Don't worry, it's only a matter of time before a crew of teenage crime-fighters mutates into existence. Hanford will then be the safest place in the world!

Re:Mystery Pits (3, Funny)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554591)

I heard Iran wanted this significant piece of history for the space museum that they plan to launch at us for all Americans to enjoy.

Re:Mystery Pits (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554589)

Do you have any idea of the kind of balls it took to be a part of this team? Under intense time pressure to work with previously theoretical isotopes that just might save tens of thousands of American lives?

And you judge them? You, with the heat on, comfortable, probably overly fed.

What. A. Putz. You. Are.

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554681)

Under intense time pressure to work with previously theoretical isotopes that just might save tens of thousands of American lives?

At the cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian Japanese lives.

Re:Mystery Pits (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554741)

At the cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian Japanese lives.

That's what happens when your Emperor and your military piss off America.

Re:Mystery Pits (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554823)

AMERICA! Fuck Yeah! Freedom is the only way yeah!

Re:Mystery Pits (1)

gravos (912628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555035)

A significant danger is the risk of plutonium being acquired (stolen or bought) by a well-equipped terrorist group, criminal organization, or national government with militaristic ambitions. Any such organization can fabricate an atomic bomb, using a grapefruit-sized piece of plutonium, without undue difficulty or expense.

Re:Mystery Pits (3, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555285)

Any such organization can fabricate an atomic bomb, using a grapefruit-sized piece of plutonium, without undue difficulty or expense.

That is such a bizarre statement that I'm just going to stare at you in shock.

*stares*

You do know that working Plutonium implosion devices are super-hard to create, right? Unless you have everything precisely calibrated, the bomb will merely fizzle rather than fission. So even with a safe full of Plutonium, it will be a long time until someone sets us up the bomb. (Say, about 92 years? :-P)

Re:Mystery Pits (1)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555319)

Wrong. The most difficult part of building a fission bomb is acquiring the fissile materiel. The rest, relatively speaking, is pretty straightforward.

Re:Mystery Pits (2, Insightful)

jaxtherat (1165473) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555397)

Weeeel, technically no. You can just create a dirty bomb that merely turns the plutonium into vapour/dust as opposed to trying to go for a fission reaction.

Dirty Bombs are pretty trivial to make.

Re:Mystery Pits (4, Insightful)

El Torico (732160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554833)

At the cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian Japanese lives.

Did you notice that was the last time that Japan attacked anyone? Peace is the result of completely removing your enemy's capacity or desire to wage war. Sad, but true.

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554909)

peace for the enemy maybe, How long has US spent in the time since then NOT at war?

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554971)

>peace for the enemy maybe, How long has US spent in the time since then NOT at war?

With all due respect, there has been nothing to compare with WWII. All states of War are not equal.

Re:Mystery Pits (4, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555053)

Tell that to the guys in the cemetary, their widows, their children.

Re:Mystery Pits (4, Insightful)

conlaw (983784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555323)

I'm not sure why parent was modded Flamebait but he's right. The soldiers being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are just as dead as those killed in WWII or any other war or"police action." Believe me, all states of war are equal when you're on the wrong end of an enemy weapon.

Re:Mystery Pits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554981)

So, from GP's moral standpoint, America SHOULD be nuked. Needs to be, in fact.

Get on it, Iran/North Korea.

Re:Mystery Pits (1)

Malevolyn (776946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555195)

I could have sworn North Korea already tried, failed, and no one even noticed until after the fact...

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555045)

All of it? Yeah we've had skirmishes since then but we haven't had a significant percentage of GDP geared towards war since. Even the trillion dollar fiasco in Iraq has only been about 1.3% of GDP over the time we've been there. Our standing army and research and procurement programs during times of absolute peace are around 3% of GDP so it's been nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Re:Mystery Pits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555377)

Congratulations, you have reduced the cost of war to the extent that you can basically wage it for free. And free wars don't count, right?

Re:Mystery Pits (0, Troll)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554965)

Did you notice that was the last time that Japan attacked anyone?

This reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons where Springfield enacted the "Bear Patrol" to protect the town. Correlation != Causation

Peace is the result of completely removing your enemy's capacity or desire to wage war.

The atomic bomb did not remove Japan's desire to wage war, three offers of surrender previous to the bomb would indicate that their desire was basically gone already.

The atom bomb did not prevent future attacks from Japan, economic interdependence and teaching their manufacturers to make cars did.

Japan wanted to surrender and USA didn't accept? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555229)

The atomic bomb did not remove Japan's desire to wage war, three offers of surrender previous to the bomb would indicate that their desire was basically gone already.

[Citation needed]

Or, less tersely, your assertion flies in the face of everything I have read about World War II.

Hmm, let's consult Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrender_of_Japan [wikipedia.org]

By the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, the Japan campaign was underway as Allied forces closed in on the home islands and an invasion of Japan seemed inevitable if the war continued. By the end of January 1945, some Japanese officials close to the Emperor were seeking surrender terms which would protect his position. These proposals, sent through both British and American channels were assembled by General Douglas MacArthur into a 40-page dossier and given to President Roosevelt on February 2, two days before the Yalta conference. The dossier was reportedly dismissed by Roosevelt out of hand -- the proposals all included the condition that Emperor's position would be assured, albeit possibly as a puppet ruler. At this time, however, the allied policy was to accept only an unconditional offer of surrender. Additionally, these proposals were strongly opposed by powerful members of the Japanese government itself and thus can not be said to represent the true willingness of Japan to surrender at this time. Those opposed included members of the Supreme War Council Anami, Umezu and Toyoda.

So, I guess there was sort of an offer to surrender, but President Roosevelt was not willing to accept the conditions, and it's not clear that the Japanese government as a whole would have gone along with it even had it been accepted.

Re:Mystery Pits (1)

Malekin (1079147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554979)

Did you notice that was the last time that Japan attacked anyone? Peace is the result of completely removing your enemy's capacity or desire to wage war. Sad, but true.

Or your enemy removing yours. Either way it seems the only way to peace is tyranny.

Re:Mystery Pits (2, Insightful)

BobisOnlyBob (1438553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555057)

WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

These are the principles which have guided the nations of the world since 1984.
And long before that, too - they were just never codified so succinctly before.

Re:Mystery Pits (-1, Redundant)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555127)

Peace is the result of completely removing your enemy. Sad, but true.

There, fixed that for you...

Re:Mystery Pits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555213)

Correlation is not causation. There are plenty of countries in this world that have not attacked another country in the last 60 years. None of them had to endure 100,000 murdered civilians, so the claimed link is bogus and cannot be used as a justification.

Pit of ten thousand corpses (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555363)

To be exact, the cost was much, much more than "hundreds of thousands of civilian Japanese lives."

Ain't you people ever heard of "Pit of ten thousand corpses?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_war_crimes

Have you at least seen The bridge on the river Kwai?

It was so sick they gave Nazis the heebie jeebies.

Cheers,

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554975)

Actually that number is a very very low estimate.
Did you know that the US military is still using the stockpile of purple hearts that was made for the invasion of Japan.
The military estimates for the losses are in the hundreds of thousands for US and over a million for Japan.
Japan had also already crossed the NBC line before the US dropped the bombs. They had used chemical and biological weapons in China.

Yes it was a terrible waste of life. If the government of Japan had just cared enough about their own citizens lives it never would have happened.

Re:Mystery Pits (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555379)

Damn, I don't know on which parallel universe you guys live, but even Eisenhower recognized the Nagasaki/Hiroshima bombs were NOT aimed at Japan, but instead AIMED at the Soviet Union and Stalin, so they could stop the Red Army to get to Japan (they were in North Korea and getting close already...).
They knew if they didn't show to Stalin they had a weapon he couldn't fight (at least not at that time...), he will get all the way to Tokyo and the next year to Hawaii, Los Angeles and God knows where else.
The Red Army was unstoppable. The only way to stop them was to scare them to death.
Japanese were just sorry Expendable assets...

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Informative)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555231)

We killed just as many Japanese civilians in one bombing run with incendiary bombs as with one atomic bomb.

Everything I've observed and studied about the war points to the loss of Japanese lives would have been far higher if we invaded. If you question this, look at casualty numbers for German civilians. Plus we (racially) hated the Japanese far more than the Germans. And the Germans weren't culturally opposed surrender.

Nuclear Bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555321)

Versus a large loss of life amongst both American military and Japanese civilians in the event of a land invasion? (Yes, there was a huge death toll at Hiroshima/Nagasaki, but there certainly would have huge amounts of civilian collateral damage in

Some Japanese were ready to surrender, but, then again, a lot weren't. Japanese military, and last-ditch defenders would further add to the death toll.

The death of X people is definitely a tragedy, especially for large values of X. However, how is killing X people with a nuke worse than killing the same type of X people in conventional warfare?
It's just more death per payload, and it makes a bigger statement, important to inducing psychological defeat.
[Granted, this psychological warfare maneuver was at least in part to be directed at the Russkies; this part at least is disturbing]

Honestly, it seems up in the air as to whether the A-bombs were necessary historically speaking, and some of the estimates and data have apparently been lost to time/are still classified.
I can see both sides of the argument

Re:Mystery Pits (1)

djfuq (1151563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555375)

Under intense time pressure to work with previously theoretical isotopes that just might save tens of thousands of American lives?

At the cost of hundreds of thousands of civilian Japanese lives.

I cant believe the parent comment was censored... you people are sick.

Re:Mystery Pits (5, Insightful)

schwillis (1073082) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554775)

Do you have any idea of the kind of balls it took to be a part of this team? Under intense time pressure to work with previously theoretical isotopes that just might save tens of thousands of American lives?

And you judge them? You, with the heat on, comfortable, probably overly fed.

What. A. Putz. You. Are.

Nuclear isotopes were treated with quite a degree of reckleness for a good many years. Also I don't think they were any more heroic then anyone else who assisted with the war effort, although unlike many they were establishing for themselves quite a lucrative career. The men working in coal mines to supply energy to head up the war effort we far more heroic then a bunch of scientists getting paid handsome salarys to do what they like to do anyways, ground breaking science.

Amen to that (5, Interesting)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555211)

Nuclear isotopes were treated with quite a degree of reckleness for a good many years.

It's amazing how they treated plutonium like a bag of groceries back then. Best example of that is the Demon Core. [wikipedia.org] A sphere of plutonium that killed two scientists, Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin. In two different critical exposures.

Both times were simply the experimenter being clumsy. Dropping a brick or bumping a screwdriver. The core would go near-critical and make a flash of radiation. Louis Slotin lasted 9 days, and Harry Daghlian made it 21.

Re:Mystery Pits (1)

doti (966971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554707)

"But sloppy work by the contractors running the site saw all kinds of chemical and radioactive waste indiscriminately buried in pits underground over the 40 years Hanford was operational, earning it the accolade of the dirtiest place on Earth."
Oh, great. :)

should it be "Mysery Pits" then?

Re:Mystery Pits (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554887)

They should have put the waste in a lead refridgerator. Why, that would stop a nuclear bomb!

Re:Mystery Pits (4, Interesting)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555133)

Hanford isn't that bad of a problem---yet. The important thing to note is that Hanford is proximate to the Columbia River, a major watershed for the Pacific Northwest. Currently the stored (highly radioactive) waste is leaking into the groundwater, but has not yet reached the river. Once that happens, well, things won't be very pretty downriver. Portland is known for being a fairly "green" city, and that trend can be expected to continue. Possibly it'll be a glowing, radioactive green city...

Junior high all over again (2, Funny)

Anthony_Cargile (1336739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554575)

For some reason, just seeing the word "dump" in the title first brought feces to mind (cue word association, /. therapists).

Re:Junior high all over again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555103)

For some reason, just seeing the word "high" in the title brought an idea to mind ...

File 13 (4, Interesting)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554579)

When in doubt, always check File 13.

No political statement intended, but it would be surprising if one day the government contractors doing cleanup also found a more/less completed Nuclear weapon warhead buried in a trash pit too.
Makes one wonder what Russia still has buried in their "nuclear trash pits"?
I am sure Mike Rowe will Not be going to film that Dirty Job... (But I would certainly watch it if he ever did... as I imagine seeing Barsky fall in a pit of Nuclear Waste as Mike kiddingly mocks him... /chuckle)

Re:File 13 (5, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554987)

Makes one wonder what Russia still has buried in their "nuclear trash pits"?

Stuff you would not believe, ranging from nuclear-powered generators (for remote installations) that were abandoned all over the ex-Soviet Union on its collapse, to six nuclear submarines and ten reactor cores that were just dumped into the Artic...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kara_Sea [wikipedia.org]

This not counting the nukes they lost at sea, or are still rusting away awaiting decomm.

Researchers (4, Funny)

planckscale (579258) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554593)

By "Researchers" they mean "Homeland Security officers" who were contacted by "Police" who were contacted by "Hospital Staff" who had become sickened by "vagrants" admitted to emergency rooms with strange "green glowing skin" who had admitted to trying to sell a "Safe" they found in the "dump".

Re:Researchers (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554877)

Radiation does not make stuff (including people) glow green, thats an invention of TV and movies.

Re:Researchers (2, Interesting)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555077)

Radiation does not make stuff (including people) glow green, thats an invention of TV and movies.

Radioluminescent paint was invented in 1908 and originally incorporated radium-226 [wikipedia.org] . The toxicity of radium was not initially understood, and radium-based paint saw widespread use in, for example, watches and aircraft instruments. During the 1920s and 1930s, the harmful effects of this paint became increasingly clear. A notorious case involved the "Radium Girls", a group of women who painted watchfaces and later suffered adverse health effects from ingestion.

Re:Researchers (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555093)

Actually different isotopes can glow green or purple depending on what kind of water (normal or heavy) they are in and what kind of impurities are present. You see this all the time when they show long term storage pools or moderator pools for things like industrial irradiation plants.

Re:Researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554911)

Oh my god its all melted and purple! Were seeing the
Chernkov effect!

MELTDOWN RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

Worth a read - interesting article (5, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554659)

Apparantly the stuff was actually discovered in 2004, but it's taken them this long to do the scientific detective work to figure out where this particular sample came from.

Scary picture of the rusty unearthed safe & dirty glass bottle full of 99.96% pure plutomium here:
http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/dn16447-hanford-site/ [newscientist.com]

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (4, Interesting)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554897)

I'll say. And it's even more interesting if you do some research, too.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-239 [wikipedia.org] shows that Plutonium-239 is really hard to make and come by... anything more pure than 94% is considered weapons grade and anything more pure than 97% is considered "super grade."

What's more is that after doing some calculations, it looks like you only need about 510cc of the stuff to reach critical mass and there's 400cc here. Could this have been dangerous in the wrong hands?

The article is full of its own questions. There's still a mystery as to how the safe was contaminated and why this sample wasn't used in a bomb sooner. The article treats these questions like ancient history, but aren't there people alive and around who can answer them? Weren't there records kept?

Further investigation is warranted.

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555247)

According to this site [mphpa.org] the core of Fat Man was ~13.6 lbs or ~6,200g. Pu239 has a density of a little under 20g/cm^3 so the core of Fat Man was ~300cc. Fat Man used a subcritical mass of Pu detonated through the compression mechanism but it just goes to show that a weapon could have been created from the sample assuming the isotope mix hadn't degraded too badly.

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (1)

Heather D (1279828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555283)

What's more is that after doing some calculations, it looks like you only need about 510cc of the stuff to reach critical mass and there's 400cc here. Could this have been dangerous in the wrong hands?

Not especially. Its useless for making a fission capable nuclear device fortunately. It could make a pretty nasty poison but I doubt it could do a lot of damage over a large area in terms of mortality. There are also better, cheaper, easier to obtain poisons available. The stuff could make a big, expensive, politically 'hot' mess though.

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555033)

Scary picture of the rusty unearthed safe & dirty glass bottle full of 99.96% pure plutomium here:

How can it be 99.96% pure when the half-life of plutonium-239 is 24100 years? Even if it started out 100% pure, it would take only 14 years to decay to 99.96% purity. This stuff is supposedly older than that.

0.5 ^ (n / 24100) = 0.9996
(n / 24100) * log 0.5 = log 0.9996
n / 24100 = log 0.9996 / log 0.5 = 0.000577193463
n = 24100 * 0.000577193463 ~= 13.9

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (4, Informative)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555159)

When they talk about Purity, they mean how pure it is in terms of P-240. The amount of P-240 is usually determined upon creation conditions, since it is -very- difficult to separate P-239 from P-240.

Now, P-239 decays into U-235, and it -is- easy to chemically separate them.

All of this I learned in the last 10 minutes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutonium-239

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (1)

damien_kane (519267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555337)

The other 0.04% is other isotopes of Plutonium.
Plutonium doesn't decay into more plutonium, so the relative purity of the plutonium itself is unchanged, once the decay products are removed.

Iron coated in Iron Oxide (rust) is still Iron if you grind off the rust.

Re:Worth a read - interesting article (4, Funny)

shadwstalkr (111149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555091)

The real shame is that Doc Brown never had to get involved with terrorists after all.

All across the jersey shore the sounds of shovels (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554683)

All across the jersey shore the sounds of shovels can be heard as terrorists smell pay-dirt.

Fortunately, there's enough garbage there to keep them searching until theyre all dead.

A much more interesting form of self-enforcement than the TSA, don't you think?

Best Before End ... (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554711)

My guess is that it's probably not weapons-grade anymore, but of course still suitable for a dirty bomb.

Ob. /. joke: This belongs in a museum!

24000 year half life (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554859)

With a 24000 half life it has gone from 99.96% to approx 99.85%. This stuff is still green. You need to keep it for at least 10k years to be cellar matured.

Re:Best Before End ... (1)

Silicon Jedi (878120) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554991)

Yes, because the 64 years of sitting around is almost 0.27 percent, man that's no way weapons grade (IANANS)

Zinc is by far the best element (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554717)

I also like plutonium. It's just fun to say. Plutonium. 'How's your plutonium?' 'Good, thank you.'

Nuclear Dump (4, Informative)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554719)

It's worth noting that the sample was found at Hanford, a dedicated nuclear site. It's a radioactive mess, and the sample was not contained safely, but it's not as if they found it at a typical municipal dump.

Re:Nuclear Dump (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554767)

the sample was not contained safely, but it's not as if they found it at a typical municipal dump.

I'd say it was contained quite "safely" if you'll excuse the pun.

Re:Nuclear Dump (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554777)

As far as nuclear waste goes, this stuff isn't so dangerous. It's what you can make it into that is scary.

Re:Nuclear Dump (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555001)

It's not that toxic as nuclear waste goes, but I wouldn't go ingesting it and handling it without protections. As long as you avoid getting close to it's critical mass you'll be OK..but if it gets close to critical mass then it's tossing off neutrons and gamma radiation. That will kill you. There have been several accidents of this type, but no one has died from ingestion as it's not really metabolized by the body, nor is it cleared out. It just sits there giving off alpha radiation. 20 yrs later you have lung, bone or liver cancer, which is pretty scary if you ask me!

Re:Nuclear Dump (4, Informative)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555037)

Tell it to the downwinders [downwinders.com] . In 1945 alone Hanford released over 500,000 curies of radioactive iodine into the air. Three Mile Island, by comparison, released about 20 curies by accident and everyone freaked out.

Re:Nuclear Dump (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555121)

the sample was not contained safely

They DID lock it in a safe!
Give 'em points for effort.

Re:Nuclear Dump (1)

tcolberg (998885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555223)

If they had buried the plutonium in a lead safe, they would have had radioactive AND lead-contaminated ground water. They were only looking out for the environmentalists!

A little insight.. (5, Informative)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554753)

I have personally visited the fields where they doing all this. The term "waste pit" is misleading. A lot of stuff was stuffed in 55gal drums and buried in rows underground just because they didnt know what to do with it. It was always intended to go back and clean them up, but due to delays they have been there longer than expected. It wasnt just thrown out in a big pile.

There is a huge tent on rollers (about football field size) that has a crane mechanism hanging from the ceiling. The barrels (and some boxes) are mostly rusted really bad so digging is done very slowly to avoid busting any. Those that are judged to be too weak are packed into a larger barrel that fits over the old one. There is also a ventilation trailer that has automated drills to pierce drums that are under pressure slowly to release gases so they dont explode. Its really pretty cool how they have it set up.

They just didnt know any better back then, and there was no way for them to have guessed what would happen with all that stuff. Unfortunately work on the vitrification plant is constantly delayed due to red-tape, but when it gets up and running then that will be a major break through.

Note: Most of the stuff in these barrels is solid. The liquid stuff are held in huge (over a million gallon) tanks. Those are also being replaced.

Do we really know any better now? (2, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554925)

Whenever I see "They didn't know better back then." I get that feeling that in 50 years time they'll be saying the same of us - those dumb bastards that lived with that pathetic 2009 technology.

I'm sure those guys back then were just as smug about their technology as we are now.

Re:Do we really know any better now? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555063)

Nah, we have too many lawyers now. If anything they will look back and say "You morons, if you would just have thrown the lawyers and enviromentalist wackos out the window and just done the work you could have it cleaned up by now."

The currant big opposition to the vit plant now are seagulls nesting in the framework. Can't just shoot em though. That would not be earth friendly.

Re:Do we really know any better now? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555305)

If we use vitrification it will be dumb 1950s technology that doesn't work well (need to keep it dry forever) instead of the 2009 technology such as synrock. We could have had synrock in the 1970s if people hadn't been screaming about how "clean" nukes are and actually funded research a bit better.

Re:A little insight.. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555177)

You might want to mention the fact the water tanks have leaked and the contaminated ground water is nearing a river that provides water to a major city. Hanford is one of the worst nuclear messes in this nation's history and it's the gift that keeps on giving since the clean up has barely started and we're talking 60+ years since it was opened. I keep hearing industry is doing much better then you hear about millions of gallons of coal slag cutting loose contaminating an area. They knew about the cracks in the retaining levees they just didn't do anything about it. The government and corporations both do what is cheapest and most expedient. It's why I don't trust either group to do the right thing with nuclear power they will do what is most profitable and leave it to the government to clean up the mess and we can see how well Hanford is going.

Re:A little insight.. (1)

coopaq (601975) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555271)

"I have personally visited the fields where they doing all this. The term "waste pit" is misleading. A lot of stuff was stuffed in 55gal drums and buried in rows underground just because they didnt know what to do with it."

You should visit my office. Sounds like the legacy code I maintain these days.

Re:A little insight.. (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555277)

Hanford is also the site where the DoE is trying a really cool bio-remediation project. The scary thing is that the mobile Pu is only one small part of the nastiness in the groundwater there, they have to chemically treat the water with multiple steps in order to get it clean enough for the bacteria to survive long enough to accomplish the remediation.

Very surprising... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554825)

Not that they would be sloppy about disposal, history conclusively demonstrates that people, unless forced to do otherwise, don't care about proper disposal; but that they would dump that much pure plutonium.

Particularly in the early days, before processes were refined, highly pure samples of any of the exotic radioisotopes would have cost a bloody fortune, well more than their weight in gold. Not to mention the whole trying-to-get-the-Bomb-as-fast-as-possible thing. I'd expect to find radioactive trash all over the place; but finding a good size plutonium sample is pretty surprising.

Re:Very surprising... (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26554915)

Not if you read the story.
The safe was contaminated. Probably by some very nasty but short lived stuff. So the did the "safe" thing by 1944/45 standards. They buried it.
Now the really nasty stuff is gone.

I guess that (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26554847)

Richard Feynman mustn't have had access to this particular safe.

Re:I guess that (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555191)

Richard Feynman mustn't have had access to this particular safe.

He's probably out there thinking "so that's where I put my aftershave!"

How is Saddam supposed to account for all his WMDs (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26555079)

Sorry if this is a bit off topic. If even the US can lose track of its weapons-grade plutonium, then how is Iraq supposed to account for all its nuclear WMD's before the Iraq war. I remembered EX-Pres Bush saying that unless Iraq comes clean with the accounting of the WMD's, then US will invade Iraq.
Of course, in hind-sight, accounting for the WMD's is probably an excuse to invade anyway.

Re:How is Saddam supposed to account for all his W (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555161)

You're talking about something that was lost in 1951, not 2003. The Cold War wasn't even fully fired up yet. Speaking of hindsight, yes, this kind of thing should probably have been recorded. Maybe it was, somewhere on some piece of paper that was lost or burned or simply misplaced. It seems easy to forget how much computers help us organize information now.

More to be found (4, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555151)

Much more. Take a drive out there sometime. Mile after mile of desert. There is construction rubble, old reactors, contaminated pipes and equipment mixed with construction rubble. Even the stuff they know is there is bad. Tanks full of screaming hot radioactive waste that burp flammable gas. Can't stabilize it, can't remove it, and definitely no smoking near it. The cesium pool...no life guard on duty. N Springs, the canyon facilities. And that's just what we know about. There are certainly more finds like this one buried out there. More plutonium, uranium, americium, cesium, thorium, take your pickium there's a container of it buried out there, probably mixed with something toxic, mutagenic, or carcinogenic that's equally scary when it's not radioactive. They were in a hurry, didn't understand the risks, record keeping was...occasional...and what scientists did was not understood by the majority of people working out there and frequently not well regulated.

I'm not saying it's good or bad, it is what it is out there. Just don't be surprised what turns up in a backhoe bucket out at Hanford.

Re:More to be found (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555235)

Actually its very clean. Sure its desert, but so is everything else for hundreds of miles around. Thats why they picked it. The first full scale operating reactor is now a public museum (as of last fall. Bus rides in are availible). Workers receive fewer REMs than citizens of Chicago from the ambient radiation. Sure mistakes were made, but its hardly the fallout 3 scenario you imply. Its all very closely monitored so nothing leaks. Everything that was done back then is being replaced/redone. The biggest problem now is lawyers. Enough is being done to keep it in the status quo, but too many realize that if they do ever finish then they loose their contract.

A native's perspective. (3, Interesting)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555267)

Although this area is the site of a great deal of mistakes and consequences resulting from negligence back in the day, those of us who live here are proud of our history....And the fact that we are our own nightlights! But I digress, the community that has been formed around this area is just one of those gems that makes you want to live here for a very long time. I have lived here my whole life and the history, the community, and the natural beauty of the area are what keep me here. If anyone wants to see a great documentary of what happened out there, and how much crap is being cleaned up, buy the DVD Arid Lands from sidelongfilms.com. From a native's perspective, it is the best explanation and analysis of the history and community that I have ever seen.

Beaten up old safe? (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555273)

"It was unearthed in a waste pit at Hanford, Washington, inside a beaten up old safe."

  Someone tag this Feynman ;D

SB

I sense a disturbance in the force... (0, Flamebait)

ErikTheRed (162431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26555389)

...as if thousands of terrorists (and the dinner-jacket wearing leader of a certain country, but I repeat myself) are simultaneously slapping themselves on the forehead and saying "Doh!"
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