If we can bury farm waste, why not nuclear waste? (The potential escape of nuclear material is one of the themes of Whitley's dynamic new novel Critical Mass). We have an extensive program to do just that, but it doesn't always work.
The first weapons-grade plutonium ever made has been found in the bottom of a landfill at the world's oldest nuclear processing site in Hanford, WA. It was discovered inside an old glass jar inside an old safe at the bottom of the trash, abandoned and forgotten about since 1943. The Hanford factory created the plutonium that was used to make the bomb dropped on Nagasaki in Japan.
But it's not as bad as it seems: Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,110 years and gives off particles that are too large to penetrate human skin. New Scientist quotes Jon Schwantes, one of the people who discovered the plutonium, as saying, "The jug was intact when found."
Art credit: freeimages.co.uk
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