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The Secret Effort To Clean Up a Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the head-down-to-the-plutonium-dump-and-grab-me-something-shiny dept.

Earth 74

Lasrick writes "The Plutonium Mountain report has just been released by the Belfer Center at Harvard. It describes the remarkable effort the U.S. made to get the Russians to recognize the nuclear proliferation risk they left behind at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test when the Soviet Union collapsed. In this interview with Siegfried Hecker, he describes how he and other scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory recognized the risk to world security as the Semipalatinsk site became overrun with metal scavengers. Quoting: 'The copper cable thieves were not nomads on camelback, but instead they employed industrial excavation machinery and left kilometers of deep trenches digging out everything they could sell. We were concerned that some of that copper cabling could lead to plutonium residues.'"

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America! Fuck yeah! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621021)

Back-to-back World War champs! Suck it, Eurotards!

America! Fuck yeah!

Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621107)

Okay, I can't hold it in anymore.

Fuck them. Fuck them all to Hell, back again, and then back to Hell, whereupon they shall be fucked by the Barbed Cock of Satan for the rest of eternity.

Fuck the Muslim Brotherhood for existing. Fuck them for deciding that Christians- who have no governmental authority at all- are legitimate targets when fighting against the government. Fuck them for choosing Evil over Good.

Fuck the "World Leaders" who all decided it would be a good idea for Hosni Mubarak to go. Fuck them for thinking the Muslim Brotherhood was anything *other* than Evil on Earth. Fuck them for standing idly by while this happens.

Fuck the Republicans for being cowardly weasels. Fuck them for not opposing Barack Obama- who has sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore with Evil- at every turn. Fuck them for not stepping in to provide the Moral Counterweight that Obama will not.

Fuck the Democrats for putting their own political gains above the lives of innocents- whether American or otherwise. Fuck them for supporting Radical Islam because it scores them political points.

Fuck Barack Hussein Obama for siding with Evil over Good. Fuck him for deciding that the Muslim Brotherhood would be a good diplomatic partner. Fuck him for selling Israel up the river.

What in God's Good Name is wrong with this fucking joke of an Administration?

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44621215)

Fuck him for selling Israel up the river.

The rest of your post is off-topic, stupid, bigoted, and uninteresting, but I'd like to point out that being sold "upriver" would have been considered a good thing, comparatively, since downriver agriculture was crueler than upriver slave jobs. The expression you just used would mean "putting Israel into a slightly less inhumane situation".

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621637)

most often, the people who accuse others of 'bigotry' are just glossing over the uncomfortable truth. there are no perfect cultures, nor can there be.

fuck israel, and fuck the muslims too. they can all burn. let them have their shitty nuclear exchange. I'm tired of funding their 2000 year old war with my taxes. sick of it. that money belongs in my pocket.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (0)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#44622697)

Sure, accusing someone who wants to kill an entire ethnic group under the guise of killing a particular religion of being a bigot is "bigotry too". Lamest. Argument. Ever.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (-1, Offtopic)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44621495)

Fuck you for not even trying to understand the complexity. naw, lets just bomb them, kill their children cause 'MERICA FUCK YEAH!

" Fuck them for supporting Radical Islam because it scores them political points."
they don't.

Evil over good is sunjective.

"Fuck him for deciding that the Muslim Brotherhood would be a good diplomatic partner."
he didn't.

"Fuck him for selling Israel up the river."
Assuming you are stupid and not acutally using the phrase to mean what ou think it mean, he didn't

"What in God's Good Name is wrong with this fucking joke of an Administration?
ah. I see he doesn't back you're medieval babrbic belief, their for he's a 'joke'?
The problem, my friend, is you.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621531)

Fuck you for... well, just FUCK YOU!

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (0)

Talderas (1212466) | about a year ago | (#44621913)

ah. I see he doesn't back you're medieval babrbic belief, their for he's a 'joke'?
The problem, my friend, is you.

Take your barbaric spelling back to the medieval ages where it belongs.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (0)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#44623133)

Ah, so fuck americans' complexity, right? Isn't that the typical, hypocritical eurocentric attitude about americans? Americans are the propaganda consuming idiot mouth breathers, not like the 'progressive', 'complex', 'intellectual', and 'sophisticated' euro cultures, right? Please, there's plenty of transnational trash to go around, and not all of it is white.

I'm sick of passive aggressive, panty waisted politicos (yes including US government) hiding behind that kind of sophistry to justify what's really just a powergrab (or stab) at another country. Their lack of balls in taking unilateral action when needed is what has created most of the problems in the last 50 years, passing the buck onto the subsequent generations. As a result, they've lost their constituents' respect, which is what created the apathy that is sapping the west dry of will. Either leave other countries alone, or declare war if they're truly threats. Enough of the middle road paddycake games that do little but grow the size of bureaucracies as they 'compromise' us all right off a social and fiscal cliff. Is country A a threat? declare war, and send them back to the stone age. It's not? Fine, close the bases and bring the troops home. All these invasive spy programs, attacks on liberty, and 'police actions' abroad are just examples of that weak-willed passive aggression. They cost money/lives/freedom and accomplish nothing.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about a year ago | (#44621721)

I think you need to consult your doctor with that ehm.. blatant Muslim Brotherhood fetish of yours.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621747)

Fuck the Muslim Brotherhood for existing. Fuck them for deciding that Christians- who have no governmental authority at all- are legitimate targets when fighting against the government. Fuck them for choosing Evil over Good.

Yep cuz america never kills civilians. at least they're doing it as a retaliation not "we wants more oil"

fuck you for being a stupid fucking american and hopefully your country and everyone in it burns to death

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (0)

sexconker (1179573) | about a year ago | (#44622059)

Okay, I can't hold it in anymore.

Fuck them. Fuck them all to Hell, back again, and then back to Hell, whereupon they shall be fucked by the Barbed Cock of Satan for the rest of eternity.

Fuck the Muslim Brotherhood for existing. Fuck them for deciding that Christians- who have no governmental authority at all- are legitimate targets when fighting against the government. Fuck them for choosing Evil over Good.

Fuck the "World Leaders" who all decided it would be a good idea for Hosni Mubarak to go. Fuck them for thinking the Muslim Brotherhood was anything *other* than Evil on Earth. Fuck them for standing idly by while this happens.

Fuck the Republicans for being cowardly weasels. Fuck them for not opposing Barack Obama- who has sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore with Evil- at every turn. Fuck them for not stepping in to provide the Moral Counterweight that Obama will not.

Fuck the Democrats for putting their own political gains above the lives of innocents- whether American or otherwise. Fuck them for supporting Radical Islam because it scores them political points.

Fuck Barack Hussein Obama for siding with Evil over Good. Fuck him for deciding that the Muslim Brotherhood would be a good diplomatic partner. Fuck him for selling Israel up the river.

What in God's Good Name is wrong with this fucking joke of an Administration?

I was with you until the Israel bit. Israel needs to be cut off from all US aid and protection for their crimes.

Re:Okay, I can't hold it in anymore. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44623383)

Fuck them for thinking the Muslim Brotherhood was anything *other* than Evil on Earth.

What do you actually know about them, other than they are Muslim? Have they ever done anything to you? Is an organization that is called the "Muslim Brotherhood" somehow different than an organization that might be called the "Buddhist Brotherhood"? Or the "Christian Brotherhood"?

I don't care if you don't like them, their policies, their positions, or even their haircuts, but if you don't even have a reason, then why should I give a damn about your opinion?

komal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621331)

my co-worker's step-aunt makes $73 every hour on the internet. She has been without work for 10 months but last month her pay check was $16799 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site....WWW.bay92.COM

gn44 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621411)

I know a guy... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621447)

His name is Borat and he is from The Great Khazakstan...

It's not a secret (1)

m1ndcrash (2158084) | about a year ago | (#44621533)

if it is on slashdot

Original article worth a read (5, Insightful)

bryanandaimee (2454338) | about a year ago | (#44621553)

Reading the summary I thought "No big deal, so some contaminated dirt is out there and someone might refine it for a few grams of plutonium residue."

But then I decided to read the article. It was slashdotted of course so I went on Google and found the article at a non-slashdotted site. (I know, not really the slashdot way.) All I can say is, HOLY PLUTONIUM Batman! Not residue from tests, but hundreds of pounds of plutonium metal in useable form. Enough for dozens of nuclear bombs. And they capped it and left it there! And now they are telling the world where it is. I'm speechless. (Other than the preceding text of course.)

Re:Original article worth a read (2)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#44621625)

I read a book a while back called The Atomic Bazaar. Getting your hands on nuclear weapons materials isn't as difficult as it should be.

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44624559)

If so, then why did Doc buy the plutonium from the Libyans?

Re:Original article worth a read (3, Funny)

idontgno (624372) | about a year ago | (#44624951)

That was back in '85. I'm sure that in 2013 plutonium is available in every corner drug store, but in 1985 it was a little hard to come by.

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

VanessaE (970834) | about a year ago | (#44626025)

He didn't. He stole it and in return gave them a shoddy bomb casing full of used pinball machine parts.

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621859)

One of the most difficult problems with nuclear materials production is removing the desired materials (fissionable) from the undesired ones. So having hundreds of pounds of plutonium may not be nearly as big of a deal as you might think, if it is mixed in with thousands of pounds of other materials. "Dirty bomb(s)" might have been producible from the materials on the site, but actually construction nuclear weapons seems unlikely without a monumental undertaking.

Re:Original article worth a read (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622843)

One of the most difficult problems with nuclear materials production is removing the desired materials (fissionable) from the undesired ones. So having hundreds of pounds of plutonium may not be nearly as big of a deal as you might think, if it is mixed in with thousands of pounds of other materials. "Dirty bomb(s)" might have been producible from the materials on the site, but actually construction nuclear weapons seems unlikely without a monumental undertaking.

No. This was unburnt fissile material - U235 and/or Pu239 - from nuclear tests, conveniently buried underground. The hard work (enrichment of U235 or making sure that there was no pesky Pu240 in the mix) had been done by Soviet weaponeers. Extracting that material from an atomic test site is nontrivial, but a hell of a lot easier than producing it from scratch.

The unstated assumption was that atomic test sites, being some of the most secure sites in any country, would remain secure. That assumption failed when the USSR broke up, and these sites became map locations in a real-life game of Fallout: former top-secret military bases left unguarded and chock-full of with loot for any intrepid, foolish, or batshiat crazy explorer to poke around in. 99% bottlecaps (copper wire), 0.99% deathtraps (hello, cancer!), and 0.01% game-altering resources for well-equipped villains with nefarious intent.

The awesome thing about this story is that weaponeers from both sides of the Cold War, deeply conscious of the need for each side to preserve its secrets (samples of melted glass from the inside of an underground Soviet test site would still be an intelligence bonanza for the US), managed to find a way to come together and secure the site without compromising each other's secrets. Good on ya, guys. And thanks.

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44623433)

"This was unburnt fissile material - U235 and/or Pu239"

Yes, but as you stated its burred underground, mixed with tones upon tons of dirt, metals (from the casings, detonators, wires, etc), glass and other materials. Separating flecks of unburnt fissile material out of all of that would, as I said, be a "monumental undertaking" (at least for a non government group). Sure it could be done, but it would be dangerous, difficult, costly & have a high chance of failure (US spy satellite sees excavation activity over sub-critical test site, cruise missile dispatched a few hours later to "dissuade" them). Of course it would be far easier than the small cities required to refine uranium into fissionable materials, but its not going to be done by a few guys with a backhoe either. It would take dozens of people with heavy equipment to extract dump truck loads of material. Then some kind of sorting facility to remove the metallic materials from the mix. Then some method of sorting the fissionable elements (many in dust for) from the other metallic components, again dooable, but taking a significant amount of nohow and a lot of resources.

Re:Original article worth a read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44626001)

It would take dozens of people with heavy equipment

(First AC back) Yeah, we're basically in agreement here. The proliferation risk is that it reduces the barrier to entry from multibillions of dollars to multimillions of dollars, and at that price, whether the bad guys are state-sponsored or not is irrelevant. A few hundred million to secure it is cheap insurance for civilization.

Are you sure you RTFA? (3, Interesting)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about a year ago | (#44621989)

The "test site" is an area about the size of Begium or New Jersey depending on which geographic comparison works better for you. The primary reason for getting and keeping the Russians involved was because they knew where to look (from TFA). Yeah, it's kind of "security through obscurity" but it's a big area and part of the effort was to seal the nastier hot spots so it would take a significant effort to come in and dig them up. Finally, part of the continuing effort is to monitor the area with drones, seismic sensors, CCTV, etc. There's also a little bit of trying to scare off the metal scavangers by hinting that the copper cables and other metals that they might be able to recover are radioactive and could be VERY unhealthy to be around.

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Are you sure you RTFA? (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about a year ago | (#44627791)

There's also a little bit of trying to scare off the metal scavangers by hinting that the copper cables and other metals that they might be able to recover are radioactive and could be VERY unhealthy to be around.

Risk hasn't seemed to deter any of the people who routinely break into power stations and (try) to steal copper from energized equipment.

Re:Are you sure you RTFA? (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | about a year ago | (#44632061)

So that wasn't a squirrel being fried when my lights dimmed the other day?

Cheers,
Dave

Re:Original article worth a read (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44622145)

All I can say is, HOLY PLUTONIUM Batman! Not residue from tests, but hundreds of pounds of plutonium metal in useable form. Enough for dozens of nuclear bombs. And they capped it and left it there! And now they are telling the world where it is. I'm speechless. (Other than the preceding text of course.)

With the collapse of the soviet union, packing up that much plutonium and trucking it back to Russia would have been a fools errand. I suspect those involved didn't expect the disruption to be permanent, and didn't think the local population had any capability utilize it, or to even understand what they had under their feet.

But still, there are horror stories almost as bad right here in the US. The Hanford site is again leaking [nbcnews.com] and DOE was perfectly happy to ignore it for years [king5.com] .

Do you suppose the Russians would reciprocate and sent people to help with Hanford?

Re:Original article worth a read (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622981)

With the collapse of the soviet union, packing up that much plutonium and trucking it back to Russia

While it would be ignorant of me to pretend that the Soviet Union wasn't mostly a modern version of a Russian empire, to say that everything that was Soviet must be a Russian problem after is (to exaggerate a bit) like blaming Britain when something goes wrong in Australia.

Do you suppose the Russians would reciprocate and sent people to help with Hanford?

If the Americans would let them, they'd freaking love it... a chance to show to everyone that the Americans need their help?

Re:Original article worth a read (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44623061)

to say that everything that was Soviet must be a Russian problem after is (to exaggerate a bit) like blaming Britain when something goes wrong in Australia.

Well, the present situation is sort of akin to saying anything that happens on Bikini Atoll is an American problem once the US decided to use this quiet little pacific paradise as a bomb test site. The Bikini-ans, like the Kazakhs, had no such technology then or now, and had little choice in the decision to use their land as test sites. How could it possibly be THEIR problem?

Re:Original article worth a read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44623593)

Well, they do have one of the few space ports, biggest economy in the region,... it's not Japan, but we're not talking some yokels, either. You can say that all of the good stuff was inherited from the Russians, but their history, if you consider "Kazakhstan" as a place, is difficult to really separate from Russia's history, unless you want to make it about ethnicity or religion.

Re:Original article worth a read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44623043)

But still, there are horror stories almost as bad right here in the US. The Hanford site is again leaking [nbcnews.com] and DOE was perfectly happy to ignore it for years [king5.com].

The difference is, Joe Sixpack can't just walk onto Hanford (or the Nevada Test Site) with a shovel and start digging. Anyone will tries poking around these areas will meet some very annoyed people, robots, or both, long before they get their shovel out. Hanford is an environmental disaster, but it is not a security risk.

Re:Original article worth a read (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44623131)

True, but that is only because the US has not yet collapsed like the Soviet Union.

(But don't kid youself about the security at Hanford. Its pathetic. Teenagers from near by highschools hold competitions to see who can penetrate the deepest. Its pretty easy, because its a very big site).

Re:Original article worth a read (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44626919)

Teenagers from near by highschools hold competitions to see who can penetrate the deepest. Its pretty easy, because its a very big site).

It's good to see that the shallow end of the gene pool is self-chlorinating.

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44627151)

True, but that is only because the US has not yet collapsed like the Soviet Union.

Your optimism is touching, and gives me faith in the future again.

Re:Original article worth a read (4, Interesting)

IgnacioB (687913) | about a year ago | (#44624053)

I don't get how 50 gallons of nearly dry Strontium at the bottom of an annulus (that's the empty space between two tanks) with cameras watching it is anywhere near "almost as bad" as the tens or hundred of kilograms of plutonium spread across the equivalent of small European country, but whatever. People forget they're paying a bill for an arms race and the legacy of cleaning up from a hastily engineered atom bomb in WWII and subsequent Cold War ain't cheap! To the tune of BILLIONS of dollars actually. Russians have been (and continue to visit and help) at Hanford. That was part of the article about building trust. I've visited with them before...bright folks with some incredible experience and wisdom.

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#44628485)

The full article is a very good read; very instructive as to what can be done through all the obstacles especially when much of the effort is basically off the books. They did an amazing job of it.

It's one of the ironies of the times that those who could benefit the most from reading things such as this are the very ones almost guaranteed not to read them, everyone from hasty ignorant AC's to people at the top of the power game.

But AC (#44622843), DaveAtFraud, and a few others have gotten the point. (Sorry if I missed somebody; not the intent. Illustration, not credits at movie's end.)

Re:Original article worth a read (1)

IgnacioB (687913) | about a year ago | (#44632965)

Totally read it! Seriously cool grist for a guy that worked in dosimetry as a clerk until they figured out I could do dBase and let me loose on organizing their exposure database several decades ago. I didn't have the formal schooling to be an expert in nuclear physics, but always an amateur interest. One of the good things the Department of Energy (and they've done many other dumb things) did was encouraging and sponsoring these kinds of exchanges.

Even in 2013 they are still producing this stuff? (0)

LanceUppercut (766964) | about a year ago | (#44621555)

So, someone in USA halliburtoned a huge chunk of taxpayer's money into their pockets, and then told American people a pretty fairy tale about how they made "a secret effort to clean up a Soviet nuclear site"? Where did I hear that story before? Please, don't make me laugh. It is 2013 already. Everybody knows what those mythological stories about "USA helping USSR to secure its nukes" are worth.

SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (1)

lesincompetent (2836253) | about a year ago | (#44621611)

[...] could lead to plutonium residues.

Don't you just love the ambiguity of natural language?

Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44621691)

How about all the ambiguous products from China,,,, made with scrap metal from Russia With Love?

Re:SubjectsInCommentsAreStupid (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44627161)

Could be that's just leftovers from the Great Leap Forward that they're still digging up from people's backyards.

The solution to pollution is dilution (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | about a year ago | (#44621677)

Spread it out everywhere, it's the quickest way to get rid of it.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#44621923)

Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622475)

Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

Again?

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622655)

Yes. Remember that they mostly come out at night, mostly.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (1)

kwikrick (755625) | about a year ago | (#44622767)

plutonium is not only highly radioactive, it's also extremely poisenous. You don't want this stuff in the air or in the ground water. It tends to accumulate in your bones. You'll have to spread it really very very thin to make it mostly harmless.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about a year ago | (#44623339)

Plutonium is not highly radioactive. Take a slug of Plutonium 239, wrap it in a plastic bag, stick it in your pocket and you are good to go.

Highly radioactive elements have short half-lives.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (3, Informative)

IgnacioB (687913) | about a year ago | (#44624207)

Yes and No. It is a high alpha emitter, but that is low-energy and blocked by a piece of paper. It's not a big beta or gamma producer. The problem is more the poisonous effects and internal deposition....as alpha can make it through several nearby cells easily. This notion of spreading it out is rather ludicrous. Even if you could collect it all up (think big mining operations that produce massive amounts of waste itself) and then tried to spread it...it's a heavy metal and likes to clump. Unless you suddenly have hundreds of billions of dollars in your pocket to do all this....it's far better to secure it in situ as best as possible with your tens or hundred of millions of dollars.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44623901)

Spread it out everywhere, it's the quickest way to get rid of it.

Dilution isn't the answer to everything, typical homeopathic.

Re:The solution to pollution is dilution (2)

IgnacioB (687913) | about a year ago | (#44624117)

The old "dilution is the solution to pollution" theory. It doesn't work so well on thinks like transuranic waste. So, what level of "spreading" is OK? What happens when streams concentrate it downstream into the oceans and it gets into fish? Is it OK to eat a salmon with 100 nanocuries of Pu239 or a steak with 1 microcurie of Cesium 137? It may be quick, but it's not the best...or even the easiest. In fact, stabilization is the far better way to go and let time take care of it.

Just in case... (1)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44621737)

"We were concerned that some of that copper cabling could lead to plutonium residues."

Translation: the puppies that were stolen may have rabies, so please to not steal any more of them and to leave the ones you already have alone. Not to buy either, so we can fool, err... sorry, meant 'worry', anyone that might have same bright idea into forgetting about it, thank you.

Obligatory Doc Brown quote (1)

mandark1967 (630856) | about a year ago | (#44621761)

I'm sure that in 2013 plutonium is available in every corner drug store, but in 1955 it's a little hard to come by.

Huh? Why do we care? (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#44621773)

What is the concern here? That a bunch of metal scavengers would make off with enough Plutonium to do what? Make a dirty bomb? Pretty unlikely.

I must be in the dark or something, because I just don't see this as a serious issue. Three are a whole lot of other issues in the old USSR that deal SERIOUS radiation hazards. There are multiple rusting submarine hulks and surface ships with spent fuel still on board just sitting there and their industrial energy production made a huge mess all over the place. The test range is not a big risk compared to all this.

Now if they start seeing a bunch of North Koreans showing up hauling off equipment... THEN I get worried...

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#44622003)

Righto. Random off the cuff comment from Slashdot poster 2.52E6 trumps a decade of careful work by trained scientists in several countries.

Of course! However, if you're really serious, I suppose YOU could sit there in buttfuck Khazakstan and watch for North Koreans (careful, they're small) for several half lives. You'd even get free Potassium!

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622085)

Poisoning themselves? Selling plutonium-contaminated copper to companies/countries wiring up cities? Selling such plutonium-contaminated copper to companies in China or elsewhere, ending up in toys and lighting fixtures and the such in the US (somehow or other bypassing border checking)?

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622715)

And as far as heavy metals go it's even worse than lead. Plus it's going to decompose and crack as helium gets trapped in it (not that you're using it in such massive quantities). Oh, and it's an alpha emitter by the way - but no more harmful than your smoke alarm in that regard. Heck if it's just used in internal wiring it's probably safer there than anywhere else.

But still...pulverise this into a fine powder and inhale it - you're dead. Eat it - you're dead. All we seem to be worried about is the bomb potential but this stuff is one of the most toxic substances known.

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44624223)

I'll match you eating caffine milligram for milligram with Plutonium and we'll see who dies first.

There are things far more toxic than Plutonium that we eat every day.

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44625261)

Caffeine OD will cause your heart to stop. Plutonium + alpha emissions will cause your cells to break down.

The plutonium will kill you too, but possibly more slowly.

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44625385)

Atleast in finland any larger steel factory has radiation detectors at scrap yards ports for incoming radio-active material's

there is genuinely so retarded engineers they might think that if you heat up radio-active metal and it is at end of production line non-radioactive they stop thinking where it went (like chimney) :D

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44622915)

Consider, the metal scavengers might sell the plutonium to NK at a no questions asked discount.

Re:Huh? Why do we care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44623475)

> There are multiple rusting submarine hulks and surface ships with spent fuel...

This article is about UNSPENT FUEL!

Metal Market Manipulation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44622063)

Semipalatinsk site became overrun with metal scavengers. Quoting: 'The copper cable thieves were not nomads on camelback, but instead they employed industrial excavation machinery and left kilometers of deep trenches digging out everything they could sell. We were concerned that some of that copper cabling could lead to plutonium residues.'

Metal manipulation by Goldman Sach is why metals cost so much. [nakedcapitalism.com]

Re:Metal Market Manipulation. (2)

instagib (879544) | about a year ago | (#44623421)

Metal manipulation by Goldman Sach is why metals cost so much.

This is offtopic, but the source article is a longish, but really good read:
A Shuffle of Aluminum, but to Banks, Pure Gold [nytimes.com]

Banks: not only too big to fail, but also too big to be controlled, and the main reason for all large scale economic troubles.

Nunn-Lugar: when government works (4, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about a year ago | (#44622219)

A Democrat and a Republican saw a genuine national security threat and agreed on a way of combating it without macho bullshit. They pushed their solution through even though it involved the unpalatable idea of sending money to a former enemy full of people certain to steal it. As this story shows, it worked.

Re:Nunn-Lugar: when government works (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44622695)

I think the timing was also right. That was in 92 before the news really went full tilt with selling tickets to partisan boxing. It also helped that the communist "threat" had just collapsed. The powers that be were preoccupied with figuring out who we should be afraid of next to justify more defense spending, and anyway this sent some money their way.

Re:Nunn-Lugar: when government works (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year ago | (#44623011)

Non proliferation is on the very short list of things that both sides of the aisle and pretty much every President since Kennedy agree on.

Uranium. (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#44623285)

Uranium makes great stuff to shoot at Iraqi tanks.
Is that mess cleaned up yet?

Re:Uranium. (1)

tibman (623933) | about a year ago | (#44623935)

You're thinking of Depleted Uranium.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depleted_uranium#Iraqi_population [wikipedia.org]

Re:Uranium. (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about a year ago | (#44624153)

Correct.

Perhaps the 1983 Movie Was Right.... (1)

IgnacioB (687913) | about a year ago | (#44624269)

Joshua: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess? "

Convincing the Russians took only one word (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#44628773)

Chechens.
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