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Bruce Perens: The Day I Blundered Into the Nuclear Facility

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the did-you-remember-to-lock-the-door? dept.

Power 181

Bruce Perens writes "I found myself alone in a room, in front of a deep square or rectangular pool of impressively clear, still water. There was a pile of material at the bottom of the pool, and a blue glow of Cherenkov radiation in the water around it. To this day, I can't explain how an unsupervised kid could ever have gotten in there."

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So... I read the article. (5, Insightful)

Nationless (2123580) | about 2 years ago | (#41544043)

Is that it?

Re:So... I read the article. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544109)

" ... and now I have super powers."

Re:So... I read the article. (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41544941)

I guess cancer is kind of like a super power.

Re:So... I read the article. (-1, Troll)

slick7 (1703596) | about 2 years ago | (#41544153)

Is that it?

"The real question is..."What kind of spin doctor excuse covers this lapse of security?"
Answer: The same kind of bullshit that comes out of the nuclear industry when caught with their pants down. Nuclear is Unclear.

Re:So... I read the article. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544319)

Is that it?

"The real question is..."What kind of spin doctor excuse covers this lapse of security?"
Answer: The same kind of bullshit that comes out of the nuclear industry when caught with their pants down. Nuclear is Unclear.

Why would it need to be more secured than it was? Holy crap, loosen the straps on your tinfoil hat a little.

It's like a kid finding a box of used needles... zomg how did that possibly happen, what about teh consequences?!!1

A car barreling down the road at you with nothing but bare pavement separating your path from his is more dangerous.

Re:So... I read the article. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544193)

TL;DR

Re:So... I read the article. (2)

mcneely.mike (927221) | about 2 years ago | (#41544555)

Real short; Don't bother

Re:So... I read the article. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544483)

Is that it?

Yeah, really, inquiring minds want to know! Did he get bitten by a radioactive penguin?

Re:So... I read the article. (3, Funny)

cvtan (752695) | about 2 years ago | (#41545009)

I thought it was part of the dialog from Zork.
"You have entered a dark passage. If it weren't for the glow from Cherenkov radiation, you might be eaten by a grue."

Re:So... I read the article. (3, Funny)

F34nor (321515) | about 2 years ago | (#41545317)

Have you played text Pac-Man? "You are in a hallway, there are floating balls at waist height to the east and west, in the distance your hear what you think are ghosts."

When you woke up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544075)

I bet you were all sweating and the blanket was on the floor. But hey, on the upside you can try teaching yourself lucid dreaming, just like those women in the Wheel of Time and the like.

Re:When you woke up... (1)

F34nor (321515) | about 2 years ago | (#41545337)

Lucid dreaming according to Tibetan Buddhists is the fastest path to enlightenment. Practice accrued during dreams is has real world measurable effects on behavior. If you want to learn kickstarter just had a lucid dreaming mask similar to the NovaDreamer but for much less money.

Re:When you woke up... (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | about 2 years ago | (#41545387)

That isn't lucid dreaming, it is connecting to another reality. Hell, you can physically enter it, travel somewhere, and come out in the real world location you moved to. That doesn't really work with lucid dreaming.

BMRR? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544083)

BNL had three research reactors.

Not sure whether BMRR or HFBR were water-moderated, but I'd bet it was the Brookhaven Medical Research Reactor [bnl.gov] . A bunch of beautiful glowing stuff at the bottom of a deep pool of water is a common configuration for a research reactor used for the production of medical isotopes.

Re:BMRR? (2)

iggymanz (596061) | about 2 years ago | (#41545419)

storage of spent fuel is also done in pools with borated water of course. The answer to Bruce's question is that his parent wasn't doing his job. The danger to Bruce even had he swam & dived ten foot deep in the pool was zero (divers even go into flooded cavity with reactor head open during refueling). He should be thankful he got to see the pretty blue glow with complete safety.

Still wimpy compared to Technocrat, Bruce, you don't allow comments there. You want a site with traffic again you'll have to open the floodgates of hell. --Ralph

Re:BMRR? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545535)

Nah, sounds like the old nuclear waste management facility, bldg 830? Big pool of water, and manipulators for transferring stuff, decommissioned but still there, although a bit more secure now. Failed to google up any pics. Doesn't look like any of the three reactors had water pools.?

The 60s and 70s (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544085)

I think Bruce might be looking at the past through the lens of today. In the 60s, nuclear plants and labs had a couple of security guards to protect from theft and whatnot. They didn't carry guns. Unless there were secret things going on, these places weren't heavily guarded. Nuclear power wasn't considered a security issue. Nor were airports, train stations, etc.

Re:The 60s and 70s (5, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#41544245)

Lots of universities had research reactors (a few still do). They had no more security than some bored grad students working in the outer lab. If it was an open house even they would have been too busy to look after every wandering kid.

Re:The 60s and 70s (5, Interesting)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41544497)

Lots of universities had research reactors (a few still do). They had no more security than some bored grad students working in the outer lab. If it was an open house even they would have been too busy to look after every wandering kid.

When I was in high school we did a tour of university's research reactor, and like you said, the only people there were a few grad students and an operator (or maybe he was a professor?) - no armed guards, no fancy security systems, we just had to sign in with the student at the front desk. We weren't allowed in the room that had the reactor pool,but we could see it (and the blue Cherenkov Radiation glow) through a large thick glassed window. They said that the water was sufficient to contain the radiation but they didn't want many people in the reactor room since any contaminants in the water could become radioactive.

We were standing in the room that had the door to the reactor room, so I don't think it would have been hard for a kid to accidentally gain access to the reactor room if someone inadvertently left the door open or didn't pull it closed after they left the room.

But at the time, the coolest thing in the building was the remote manipulator arms they used for working with radioactive materials. After playing with those arms, I decided I was going to have a career in nuclear science. Though somehow I ended up in IT instead.

Re:The 60s and 70s (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545041)

I've got you beat: They let us walk THROUGH the reactor in either the 6th or 7th grade as part of one of those summer-school programs. It was on the local military base (not long before the glorious (Clinton? Bush?) era base closures happened. A town with 5+ bases, two of them AFBs, all closed and sold off to commercial interests...).

Still, one of the most awesome memories of my early life.

Re:The 60s and 70s (2, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41545285)

When I went to the Cyclotron (the name for the Texas A&M nuclear reactor), there was no security, other than a badge-swipe door that runs off student ID. I was escorted, so no idea if mine would have worked. Once in, there was no security at all I could see. There were few other people, but we were escorted by an "elder" of the facility, so they likely knew him by sight.

Re:The 60s and 70s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545483)

but they didn't want many people in the reactor room since any contaminants in the water could become radioactive.

Please don't pee in our pool. Really. Remember how Godzilla got started? Right. We're serious.

Re:The 60s and 70s (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545027)

A lot of those research reactors have a lot less material in them than people picture when told it is a nuclear reactor. Some of them require considerable disassembly to remove material. Others would require major operations to actually get the material any distance away due to the radiation. In one case when asked "What if someone just swam down there and grabbed some of the material?" the response was "They would be dead before getting out the door with it." So if anything, the amount of security needed is based on their concern someone will damage equipment or do something stupid, not so much getting away with the radioactive material.

this isn't Hollywood (4, Informative)

v1 (525388) | about 2 years ago | (#41545509)

"They would be dead before getting out the door with it."

My initial reaction to this is "this isn't Hollywood, where two 9mm bullets makes a car explode." Radiation in fatal doses takes at leas hours and usually days or weeks to kill you. If it's extremely high it could give you a pounding headache, dizzy, very sick to your stomach, or possibly even pass out. But if you got to that point quickly you'd have been many times over the fatal dose. A high enough dose of xrays can knock you unconscious, but even that requires a more energetic source than decay.

Basically what I'm saying is radiation poisoning isn't instant. All but the most intense exposure will simply write your death sentence. It will take at least many hours to play out and actually stop you from breathing. You could probably swim down and grab a rod and try to muscle it to the surface. (it's very dense) By the time you got to the surface you might even be starting to show signs of blistering on your hand that is holding the rod, but even that is more likely to be in the 10 minute range. The heat the rod is producing without the water cooling it would probably be more of a bother for you. If it was radioactive enough, you'd be a dead man walking, but walking for sure, for awhile. (and setting off every radiation alarm you got near on your way out the door with the rod) Oh, and it might be messing with your vision when you got close to the rods. Some of the people that were cleaning up at chernobyl got their skin tingling and got to see the "fairy lights" sparkling around them, which had nothing to do with actual sparkles around them, it was messing with their nervous system at that point. A lot of those people died, a good chunk of them 2-20 weeks later.

Re:The 60s and 70s (4, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#41544561)

Back in 2006 I walked directly through Heathrow without ever being checked. Jetlagged all to hell I took a side door, dressed in a business suit and looking authoritative, zombied my way through a maze of corridors and past a desk of men staring intently at a monitor, before finding my way outside the airport.

On a subsequent trip, confused about the flight, I asked a man with a submachine gun the route to my gate, went there immediately, got there before the security team, and sat down watching every other passenger being frisked and scanned. The security guard was even there, someone pointed me out and obviously asked him a question, he shook his head no.

The more things change, eh?

Re:The 60s and 70s (2)

bmo (77928) | about 2 years ago | (#41544843)

In the late 70s I was doing yard work for an oceanographer and biologist down the road from me. We hopped in the truck one day because he had to go to the Graduate School of Oceanography in Saunderstown RI, which was literally a mile away, to get some stuff he was working on.

The URI GSO has a research reactor. We just walked in, he did his stuff, and we left. No guards, nothing. Not even a receptionist especially on a Saturday. ID? On a 13 year old kid? You kidding?

--
BMO

Re:The 60s and 70s (3, Interesting)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about 2 years ago | (#41545269)

I used to live in Mountain View, CA. when I was a teen. A friend and I used to ride our bicycles out on the levies that abounded along the southern San Francisco Bay--commonly know as the "Baylands"--often following the wooden catwalks that stretched for miles over the water surfaces that the levies partitioned off. The top of these levies were used as security roads around the eastern side of Moffet Field and Nasa's Ames Research Center.

We soon realized that as long as we bypassed a security check-point near the north end of the base, using the catwalks, that once we were beyond the security roads on the levee, nobody gave us a second glance. I guess they assumed we were military kids or something, because we were able to ride our bicycles right past the tarmac by going through an open gate in the security fence--only once did anyone say anything to us and that was to tell us that we were supposed to walk our bikes when we were inside the hangars. We spent many hours wandering around those hangars that summer. Ames had the neatest stuff--helicopters with wings, jets with VTO rotors, a helicopter with no windshield (mind you, this was the early 80's--I'd never heard of a "drone" before), models of every sort lined up for wind-tunnel testing, etc. We once went out there in the middle of a hot, summer night and watched a large jet take off (judging by the lights and noise) and barely caught sight of a totally silent aircraft follow it off the ground less then 3 seconds behind the first, this second aircraft only being visible by virtue of creating a silhouette against the brightly lit Bay-Area sky--otherwise it was totally silent and had zero lighting. Not sure why they'd be doing so, but it looked like they were towing another aircraft under cover of darkness. Pretty exciting, especially for a kid.

I somehow don't think that one could stroll into that place as easily these days. Lucky we didn't get shot.

The 60s and 70s? Try modern times. (4, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | about 2 years ago | (#41545273)

You can still see the characteristic and beautiful Cherenkov radiation at the research reactor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison [wisc.edu] . I've seen it a number of times.

Up until recently, it contained 1400 pounds of highly-enriched (weapons grade) U-235 in 58-pound bundles. It is in a building across from a 7-level parking ramp and an 80,000-person football stadium.

There are a number of such "Research and Test Reactors" [nrc.gov] around the US.

A 2005 ABC News report [go.com] found:

- "No guards. No metal detectors. Bags were brought into the reactor room. Doors to the building are open during the day, and no IDs are required for entry."

- "The building was undergoing major renovation, and construction workers, large trucks and building materials surrounded the rear exterior."

- "The university Web site includes a 'virtual tour' and detailed photos, descriptions and diagrams of the reactor, the fuel elements and the control room. The reactor manager informed the Fellows that tours had to be scheduled three weeks in advance and that a locked door with a window view of the reactor was the closest they could get. But a friendly professor told the Fellows about a basement entry to the reactor room, where a reactor operator opened the door and let the Fellows photograph the reactor from the doorway. Two other operators allowed the Fellows to come inside carrying their tote bags, and briefly take photographs about 15 feet from the reactor's base. No campus security ever approached the Fellows."

An 2004 New York Times report [nytimes.com] found:

- "[UWNR's] fuel is weapons-grade uranium. If it were stolen, experts say, it could give terrorists or criminals a major head start on an atomic bomb."

- "[...] out of concern that the uranium might be turned into bomb fuel, the Department of Energy has spent millions of dollars to develop lower-grade fuel and convert scores of reactors to run on it. [...] But the six campus reactors in this country are not among them."

- "Campus reactors have far less security than places where the government keeps bomb-grade uranium, and they may have foreign students of unknown political sympathies."

- "[...] the fuel now in the campus reactors is dangerously radioactive, making it hard to handle. [...] however, that highly enriched uranium was an easier fuel from which to build a bomb than is plutonium."

- "The reactor operators are paid $10.50 an hour. They recently got a raise to that level [...] because someone discovered that campus file clerks were paid more than the reactor operators.

- "[...] the current fuel load will last about 108 years at current rates of use."

"The truck is the real threat. You want to make sure the truck stays away 250 feet minimum." - Ronald Timm, Former Department of Energy security analyst

Here, the primary entrance to a major parking ramp is about 50 feet away.

Also, it's not like it's really a mystery what he saw at BNL. There have only been so many reactors there [bnl.gov] in the last 60 years. It's odd, beautiful, and I suppose comparatively rare for a person to see, but it's not a big deal.

This is it! (3, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#41544089)

This explains Bruce's Open Source super powers.

It's like peter parker but instead of a spider, its a pool of radioactive cherenkov radiation.

I knew it!

Re:This is it! (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 2 years ago | (#41544161)

I don't think radiation is radioactive

Re:This is it! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544417)

Some radiation is in fact radioactive. In particular neutron radiation can undergo beta decay.
Cerenkov radiation, however is stable.

Re:This is it! (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#41544485)

Doh!

Re:This is it! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544209)

But it doesn't explain why you're a raging faggot. So what's the backstory? "Uncle" Andy touched you in your naughty place?

Re:This is it! (1, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#41544367)

Im sorry I'm not up on all the latest hiphop slang you kids use these days.

Adventure? (2)

Holistic Missile (976980) | about 2 years ago | (#41544095)

The way it starts out, it reminded me of the old Scott Adams adventure games from the Atari 800 days...

Re:Adventure? (1)

synaptik (125) | about 2 years ago | (#41544791)

Or even Douglas Adams, for that matter...

Umm... (2)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | about 2 years ago | (#41544111)

Thats the whole story? I was sort of expecting more. Well, to the final question of that rather short article. It was most likely the area where they kept their spent fuel bundles. I know in some nuclear power plants, the spent fuel bundles have to be kept in a pool of water for a number of years until their half life is met, and they can be transfered to a dry storage facility. Normally the "pool" is not guarded or locked due to personel constantly going in and out, but there is radiation checks that are done upon exiting the area, also you wear a device for monitoring your radiation dose.

As for the blue glow, you can read all about it on wiki

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

Re:Umm... (2)

Radworker (227548) | about 2 years ago | (#41545361)

I can assume that you have not been in a commercial plant. The spent fuel pool is a locked room inside the vital area and is key card access controlled. The fuel is not being kept there because it is too radioactive. It is being stored there until decay heat becomes manageable. The area is typically monitored by area radiation monitors (ARM) and you will typically have a self reading dosimeter (MG,SAIC, or similar ) as well as a TLD (thermo-luminescent dosimeter) for record purposes. You may or may not use a frisker when you leave the immediate area depending on what work is being performed at the time. You will do a full body frisk when you leave the RCA (radiation controlled area). These terms and procedures are US ones but the rest of the world has basically the same setup that I describe assuming that we are talking about a PWR type reactor.

Re:Umm... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545475)

I actually work in one, and the irradiated fuel bay (IFB) is where we keep our spent fuel bundles, and it is not locked or have restricted access (aside from signs stating "authorized personel only"). We wear TLD's at all times inside the plant, and when we have to enter a radioactive work area, we also wear DCD's (Dose Control Devices). When you leave the IFB, there is a whole body monitor that you must use.

Re:Umm... (1)

Radworker (227548) | about 2 years ago | (#41545527)

I stand corrected then. By the term IFB, can I assume Canadian? Really? You guys just let anyone in with the spent fuel? Do you take pizza delivery in containment then? ;-)

Re:Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545867)

thats correct, and by no means does anyone just walk in there, unless they got work to do, but really, its not "locked up", sure there are a couple of doors and a lot of signs warning of the hazards and such, but that's about it. Also, I think in this day and age, there is far less chance of someone being able to come in on a tour and wander off, we have to keep a close eye on anyone that is part of a tour.

As for the pizza delivery, only on night shift :-)

A: Blundering into a nuclear facility (4, Funny)

slew (2918) | about 2 years ago | (#41544119)

Q: What do Bruce Perens and an 82-year old nun have in common?

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/10/02/1952221/82-year-old-nun-breaks-into-nuclear-facility-contractors-blamed [slashdot.org]

Re:A: Blundering into a nuclear facility (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544257)

This.

Whoever submitted this is either Bruce himself, or some blog reading whore. Nothing more than a "me too" attention whoring. The editors should be ashamed of themselves.

Re:A: Blundering into a nuclear facility (4, Funny)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41544435)

Q: What do Bruce Perens and an 82-year old nun have in common?

Both are creatures of habit?

Re:A: Blundering into a nuclear facility (3, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#41544489)

Both are virgins, of course.

Re:A: Blundering into a nuclear facility (4, Funny)

plover (150551) | about 2 years ago | (#41544493)

Q: What do Bruce Perens and an 82-year old nun have in common?

Both are creatures of habit?

You can kiss a nun once or twice, but don't get into the habit.

Glowing Cousin (2)

newsman220 (1928648) | about 2 years ago | (#41544125)

I have family who lived in and around Oak Ridge in the 50's. Some of them got booted to make way for the plant. Legend has it one cousin was a technician at the plant, walking around with his clipboard up when he went through the wrong door. He stopped walking, looked down, and realized he was standing at the edge of the pool with the nuclear pile in it. He described the same blue glow. Dropped the clipboard, quit his job and moved to the Bahamas to track satellites for NASA.

Re:Glowing Cousin (2)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | about 2 years ago | (#41544701)

It's called radiation theraphy. The reactor pool is best for treating your rheuma, take a 5 minute dip, swim around a bit, just keep your 6 feet safe distance from the Cherenkov glow and the fuel rods, it is pretty refreshing!

research reactor (1)

chipperdog (169552) | about 2 years ago | (#41544131)

Likely a tirga research reactor or something similar

Re:research reactor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545367)

Yeah, similar. Like maybe a TRIGA.

Pretty cool if true. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544133)

I'm jelly.

I actually read the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544139)

I read the article because the summary didn't tell me ANYTHING. Too bad there was nothing in the article either...

I hate it when people blow off every post as, "this isn't news!" But this really isn't news... Its.. a paragraph.

Sounds made up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544171)

it does.

nice web site, it just screams computer expert.

Hypnagogic halucination, more likely (1)

Mathinker (909784) | about 2 years ago | (#41545331)

The "not remembering opening the door" makes it seem more like a hypnagogic halucination which, by now, has been converted into a false memory. OTOH, I don't doubt about the lack of security during that era which has been talked about by other posters, so it could equally be a true memory. There isn't enough evidence to decide the truth about this matter.

This sounds very improbable (4, Funny)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#41544201)

The only way this could happen is if the guy in sector 7g was grossly incompetent.

Brookhaven National Lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544213)

Back when 10.0.0.0/8 was ARPANET and not private address space, BNL had some hosts that were wide open to tourists. Security wasn't high on their list of priorities. I guess that same attitude extended to their nuclear facilities.

Re:Brookhaven National Lab (1)

LordByronStyrofoam (587954) | about 2 years ago | (#41544921)

10.x.x.x was DEC's class A address block in the days before the great renaming.

Area 51 (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about 2 years ago | (#41544225)

Duh, it is obvious, he is an alien.

Don't make him angry! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544229)

Why does Hulk never burst the seams on his pants, anyway?

Re:Don't make him angry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544399)

God forbid we see his winky! But did you see the partial skeleton backbone as he ripped that person apart! That was sooo cool!

Re:Don't make him angry! (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#41544403)

Tiny penis.

Re:Don't make him angry! (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 2 years ago | (#41544531)

they're made of a metamaterial designed by dr. manhattan.

kind of ironic, really.

Re:Don't make him angry! (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41545407)

Mr. Fantastic, actually. Unstable Molecules.

Spent Fuel Pool (1)

msheekhah (903443) | about 2 years ago | (#41544269)

Um, a kid shouldn't be able to walk in and see a spent fuel pool. Not cool.

Re:Spent Fuel Pool (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 2 years ago | (#41545453)

why not? spent fuel pool has 30 feet of water over the tops of the fuel assemblies. you'd just get normal background radiation standing over one.

Black Mesa (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 2 years ago | (#41544275)

"I found myself alone in a room, in front of a deep square or rectangular pool of impressively clear, still water. There was a pile of material at the bottom of the pool, and a blue glow of Cherenkov radiation in the water around it."

That was when I heard his voice:

"Bruce Perens in the flesh... or rather in the Hazard Suit.

I took the liberty of relieving you of your weapons... most of them were government property. As for the suit... I think you've earned it."

And (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544285)

this non-story deserves /. space because...

So what? (3, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#41544329)

I live about 4 miles from a reactor. You can walk in and look down at the reactor during business hours. They commonly take local school children on tours. Unless you're going to dive into the water and start trying to yank fuel rods out by hand I don't really see what you could do with it. I suppose you could drop a pipe bomb in there but I don't really think it would do much.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544613)

which reactor ?

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545165)

I live about 4 miles from a reactor. You can walk in and look down at the reactor during business hours. They commonly take local school children on tours. Unless you're going to dive into the water and start trying to yank fuel rods out by hand I don't really see what you could do with it. I suppose you could drop a pipe bomb in there but I don't really think it would do much.

I call Bullshit.

Re:So what? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 2 years ago | (#41545377)

A PWR fuel assembly weighs about 1400 lbs, a BWR one about 360 to 700 lbs. (several standard sizes). The fuel pellets are inside zircaloy rods. no kid is going to dive down that deep and yank anything.

Really? (0)

Cute and Cuddly (2646619) | about 2 years ago | (#41544365)

Any evidence of this anywhere?

And that's a minute or so of my life... (3, Insightful)

logicassasin (318009) | about 2 years ago | (#41544369)

... that I'll never get back.

This was not "News For Nerds", it was "the ramblings of a guy on the internet".

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544471)

I think Bruce Perens has done enough for computing that he's considered more than "a guy on the internet."

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544677)

Really? I've never heard of him... and I probably never will again.

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545263)

Well that speaks more about you than him, now don't it?

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 2 years ago | (#41545391)

Fame for a specialty is like that. I happened to work at HP when he was hired for a short time around 2000 (hope I'm not coming on too strong with my namedropping). Most people there didn't know or care, but the programmers with any open source experience talked about it a lot.

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 2 years ago | (#41544809)

It was news to me. ;)

If you managed to find a browser to post that complaint, that doesn't contain code he was involved with in one way or another, consider me impressed.

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544897)

IE6.

No way he takes credit for that.

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 2 years ago | (#41545645)

I'm betting I could find some Spyglass code still in there somewhere. ;)

so... I should care why? (1)

logicassasin (318009) | about 2 years ago | (#41545747)

As I've stated below, I know who he is, but why should that even matter? This was about as newsworthy as RNS tweeting what he ate for breakfast or Miguel de Icaza blurting somewhere that he's on his way to Ecuador for some R&R.

His contributions to FOSS don't make him above a bit of criticizm or someone poking fun at a post on his blog.

Re:And that's a minute or so of my life... (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about 2 years ago | (#41545611)

Not sure if your trolling or ignorant, but will give the benefit of the doubt. Bruce PerensBio [perens.com] .

no, I'm not trolling... (1)

logicassasin (318009) | about 2 years ago | (#41545729)

I know exactly who Bruce is. Doesn't negate the fact that this was not "News", and it's STILL the ramblings of a guy (Bruce Perens, male = guy) on the internet (his blog = on the internet).

Sounds like a small research reactor. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544373)

It sounds like a convection cooled pool-type LEU reactor. Some colleges have them. You can't have much fun with them, unless you pull the control rods out really fast. The moderation from steam bubbles quickly reduces the power otherwise.

Oak Ridge used to hand out "hot" dimes (3, Informative)

dltaylor (7510) | about 2 years ago | (#41544397)

Lived in Chattanooga for a while "back when"; school trips sometimes went out to Oak Ridge. Souvenirs included a dime in a little case, and it was "fun" to watch a Geiger counter react to it.

Doesn't surprise me that Bruce could get near a non-weapons reactor.

Re:Oak Ridge used to hand out "hot" dimes (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about 2 years ago | (#41545761)

They tore down the old Atomic Energy Museum (wood framed, with white siding and a dark gray asphalt shingle roof), and built a more modern, concrete one, which they call the American Museum of Science and Energy. http://amse.org/ [amse.org]
They don't do the dimes anymore. As it originally worked, you actually dropped your own dime into a slot and watched it get irradiated and then put in a thin metal case about the size of a quarter, with a plastic front cover that the rest of the case was crimped around to hold it in place. At some points, the system used an operator/lecturer, but eventually, the whole thing ran hands free, the dime automatically passed under a Geiger detector probe on a little conveyor belt as it came out, and I think I remember them going to an all plastic case at some point or other. That was the sixties for you. I might have had a dozen of those things, total.
I was about 11 or 12 when the newer facility was built. On a "triple dog dare", I jumped off the just finished poured main stairs into a five foot pile of sand one weekend and twisted my ankle a little screwing around on the unguarded construction site. Hey, I missed the rebar by a good six inches. Eventually, the cops ran us off the site, and looking back, I wonder what took them so long since the site is literally right next to the police station.
          Here's the really odd thing: I was back in Oak Ridge recently, and where the old atomic energy museum was is a vacant parking lot - except there are these concrete anti-vehicle barriers put up after 9-11 to guard the old museum that was already long vacant and about to be torn down, and those are still there.

Ask Dr. Fred (1)

Galaga88 (148206) | about 2 years ago | (#41544447)

Sounds like he was in Maniac Mansion, not a licensed nuclear facility. Dr. Fred's security seemed to consist of two disembodied tentacles and an ornery nurse.

Fred never did a good job of keeping people away from that pool.

Re:Ask Dr. Fred (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 2 years ago | (#41544881)

Don't push that button. :)

See thru heartbeats with X-Ray (1)

sinan (10073) | about 2 years ago | (#41544641)

My father was the fix-it-all man in 1957 when I was 10 years old. One day he was fixing an X-Ray machine, and after he fixed it he showed me how heart heart beats, which was fascinating. I watched it for about a minute. Innocent days.

Re:See thru heartbeats with X-Ray (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 2 years ago | (#41544801)

that's so cute and horrifying at the same time.

And then I found $10! (2)

djnanite (1979686) | about 2 years ago | (#41544743)

Which was nice...

Description reminds me of... (3, Funny)

hotdiggity (987032) | about 2 years ago | (#41544747)

You find yourself alone in a room, in front of a deep square or rectangular pool of impressively clear, still water.

There is a pile of material at the bottom of the pool, and a blue glow of Cherenkov radiation in the water around it.

> TAKE PILE

You cannot take that item.

> INVENTORY

You have:

  • a rope
  • a watch
  • non-radiation-resisting clothes

> GO NORTH

You cannot go that way.

> JUMP IN POOL

Sorry, I don't know what you mean.

> ENTER POOL

You have jumped into the pool.

You have died from radiation poisoning.

Negligent escort. (2)

dfenstrate (202098) | about 2 years ago | (#41544893)

At some of these research reactors, you can pull the rods out of the reactor shortly after criticality and take your measurements with the fuel rod in your hand.
Individual research reactor loads may or may not be particularly dangerous- you can have a radiation well above background level, but far below the rate required to cause health issues.
However, a recently irradiated fuel assembly from a power reactor will kill you in short order*, if not shielded by a lot of water.

As for the young Mr. Peren's misadventure, these places are built for adults with the security clearance and knowledge required to get into the facility in the first place. These knowledgable, responsible adults may then escort visitors on arranged tours.

A visitor can be shown (more or less) whatever their escort has access too. The escort's duty is to keep the visitors out of trouble while showing them around. It seems as though Bruce's escort was a bit negligent (and knew it, from the student's displeasure.)

*perversely, the high radiation level of a used fuel assembly is a bit of a security feature. You can't steal something that will kill you before you can get out the door.

The Tesla coil at Griffith Park Observatory (1)

mbstone (457308) | about 2 years ago | (#41544965)

When I was a 3rd grader on a field trip, circa 1965, we went to LA's Griffith Observatory where there was (and is) a 500,000 voltTesla coil [youtube.com] , behind a glass door and maybe four feet high. Part of the tour was (and no longer is) being able to feel the zap from the coil.

I remember being asked to climb the activated Tesla coil and refusing. To this day I don't know if the teacher was serious, or what if anything would have resulted if I had climbed the sucker.

My father didn't get me in (1)

cvtan (752695) | about 2 years ago | (#41544997)

But he did sneak in some zinnia seeds for me and had them irradiated so I could do an experiment for biology class about how the radiation influenced the germination rate. And I had a REAL chemistry set too! Great days!

Scare Piece? (1)

Bensam123 (1340765) | about 2 years ago | (#41545183)

I actually read the article too... Nothing to see there besides the headline. The author makes it seem like this happens today and his extremely hazy memory is representative of walking straight into a active nuclear reactor (think of the kids! they're so unsafe). There are a lot of other explanation that people are leaving on the page that are more likely. How did this even make it on slashdot?

They were different times (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545677)

Hitler had been defeated, muslims weren't invented yet, and the only people to be suspicious about were people with Russian accents. The only need for security was to make sure people didn't steal office stationery or take too many biscuits from the cookie jar.

End the stereotype please (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 2 years ago | (#41545725)

Acting like Bruce Perens is relevant only reinforces the stereotype that he is.

Re:End the stereotype please (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545859)

He's a hell of a lot more relevant than you are. Do you have any idea what his net contribution is to the tools you use every day? Certainly he wouldn't be at the top of such a list, but he's definitely been a significant player in a variety of roles. If nothing else, how many people's routers use busybox?

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