Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Deathwatch, With Strontium 90
This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in cellophane, synthetic
rubber and stainless steel,
But his mask was the blind mask of Ares, snouted for gasmasks.
He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator, nor munitions-manufacturer.
Nor did he have much conversation, except to say,
"You will not be saved by General Motors or the prefabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the Lambeth Conference.
You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding universe.
In Fact, you will not be saved."
In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small metallic and
shining like the seeds of portulaca;
Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke and
armies sprang up.
Nightmare, With Angels- Steven Vincent Benet
I have become an Al Jazeera junkie. I keep watching, waiting for some good news and knowing damn well that they are putting a good face on it so the people don't panic and that the whole thing has gone pear-shaped, but still I watch. I sit in front of my monitor and watch as a row of nuclear power plants explode at the rate of one per day and each time the assurances get a little more feeble until finally, this evening, it is announced that the radiation was briefly so intense outside of the plant that they had to pull the workers out for 45 minutes before they let the poor bastards back in to try to stop four reactors that had no power to cool the cores from melting into a molten glowing nightmare in Cherenkov blue. I watch and I think of the myth of Sisyphus rolling the immense weight up the hill only to watch it roll back down, over and over to the end of time.
And so I watch and wait. In a day or two unless some very tired engineers can pull off a miracle, I will e-mail a friend in Alaska and suggest that she switch to condensed milk for about a year.
In a week there will be Congressional hearings on reactor safety. The committee's recommendations will be watered down by the House majority before it comes to a floor vote and we will all be told that we are safe and that if we ever want to break our addiction to foreign oil, we have to rely on some nuclear power. We will go back to the way it was.
In a decade or so it will happen again.
I am not saying that reactors cannot be made acceptably safe. I am saying that any design that requires that a water pumping system work 100% of the time, even when the system isn't running, to prevent catastrophic failure is not an acceptable design. It is guaranteed to do exactly what is happening now, or something like it, once in a while. The Canadians appear to have found a different way. I understand that when their new reactor overheats the casing holding the neutron moderator shatters and the moderator spills out. The experts seem to think that will prevent this sort of thing. We might want to look into that.
The government of Germany is still buying radioactive wild boar from hunters because the truffle is really good at concentrating radioactive isotopes from the Chernobyl fallout.
"And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust."
"The Waste Land" -T.S. Elliot
Be seeing you.