06 July 2009

The Radioactive Wasps Have Come Home To Roost

For over 40 years, the U.S. Government and its civilian industrial partners enriched plutonium for America's nuclear arsenal at a remote, sprawling facility in Hanford Washington (background here and here). It was steady work, at least until peace broke out briefly in the 1990s and the Hanford Site was revealed to be one of most stupendously, mind-bogglingly contaminated places on the planet. Contamination of decommissioned nuclear weapons facilities has proven to be one of the most durable leftovers from the Cold War (by durable we're talking the tens-of-thousands-of-years kind of durable) and Hanford's the worst of the whole sorry lot.

Lately things at the Hanford Site have taken a distinctly Toho Studios turn: wasps that have nested in the contaminated ground have become seriously radioactive, giving Hanford's seemingly endless environmental train wreck a fresh B-movie dimension. The New Scientist has a thorough and relatively straight-faced account here.

None of the afflicted wasps have grown to Mothra-like proportions but there's still room for hope.

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