Early Warning Open Thread

I’ll be on a BBC Radio show on Saturday. It will be available on the internet afterwards. I will tell you about this again.

Open Thread!

66 replies
  1. 1
    Mart says:

    That sounds great. Good for you. Too bad it is being produced by a socialist foreign fake news outlet!

  2. 2
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    I am regularly amazed at what an incredible resource this little blog has become. (Great work, Cole!) I look forward to hearing the BBC report, and to reading more of your posts in the future.

  3. 3
    Elizabelle says:

    Yea you!

  4. 4
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Someday, someone of your caliber needs to tell the story of Rocky Flats, plutonium, and the new neighborhoods springing up all around it. Love Canal springs to mind.

  5. 5

    Open thread? At the gym, CNN was on the TV, which is usually fine. Today, I happened to be there when Trump did one of his lawn interviews while on his way his helicopter. OMG, I had to restrain myself from shouting “Liar!” “Idiot!” “Shut up!”

  6. 6
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Very cool, Cheryl! Look forward to hearing it.

    (But are Ric and Zoey mentally and emotionally prepared for their servant to become a radio/internet sensation? Can they handle the competition?)

  7. 7
    Brachiator says:

    I’ll be on a BBC Radio show on Saturday. It will be available on the internet afterwards.

    Very cool! I will check it out.

  8. 8

    @A Ghost To Most: Most of the noise about Rocky Flats is far overblown. But there is a reason that the land there is designated a wildlife preserve: It’s not acceptably safe to live your life there. I’m not sure how close the new building is. But a big difference from Love Canal is that Love Canal was a relatively thin layer of soil over a godawful mess. The godawful stuff has been hauled away from Rocky Flats.

  9. 9
    David Evans says:

    I live in the UK! I can listen in real time!

  10. 10
    Another Scott says:

    Excellent, Cheryl. Congratulations!

    In other news, dunno if it’s been mentioned already, BBC:

    The US will work with allies to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says.

    What could possibly go wrong??!?!


    These idiots think that their words have no consequences – at least none that affect them maintaining power.


    Hurry up, Bobby Threesticks!


  11. 11

    @Another Scott: Pompeo also dissed Obama’s policy in the Middle East. The Secretary of State. In a country run by an autocrat.

    And yeah, that’s sort of contradictory to pulling out of Syria.

  12. 12
    Kelly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    land there is designated a wildlife preserve

    Kinda like Hanford and Chernobyl have become wildlife havens since it’s too dangerous for people.

  13. 13
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I heard a short clip on the radio about how the US wasn’t there to help during the Arab Spring. Sounded a lot like the start of an apology tour.

    I’m ambivalent about Syria*, but Adm Stavridis (sp?) just made the point on MSNBC that we have three times as many troops at the border to defend us from starving Guatemalans as we have in Syria. He sounded pissed off.

    * kinda like with talking to NORK: I think it’s something we should’ve been doing all along, but trump will fuck it up.

  14. 14
    trollhattan says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:
    When and how did he land (heh) on shouting in front of an idling helicopter as the bestest form of spoken communication? It’s teeth-grindingly annoying. And vintage Donny, I suppose–“See this? This is my helicopter, the president’s helicopter, not your helicopter, fake news commies!”

  15. 15
    trollhattan says:

    If Pripyat had ended up in Russia and not Ukraine [but: stay tuned on that] I’ll bet Russia would be logging and farming the region by now.

  16. 16

    @Kelly: Sort of. Although Rocky Flats was cleaned up and the grounds monitored to determine the radiation levels, which were then compared with the acceptable levels for various land usages. Chernobyl was evacuated (although some people have remained in the area) and left to nature. The Hanford Reservation has always been off limits to outsiders, for security reasons more than radiation dangers. The Los Alamos property was also off limits to outsiders, so when I was managing environmental restoration activities there, we had some neat opportunities to see the wildlife that took advantage of the exclusion of random people.

  17. 17

    @Cheryl Rofer: Isn’t Pompeo also a West Point grad or something?

  18. 18

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: I have kind of given up reading in detail what Pompeo and Bolton say. It’s not even clear how they relate to what Trump thinks, if that’s not an oxymoron. I just keep track of the headlines for today’s cray-cray.

  19. 19
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @schrodingers_cat: First in his class. And he talks about The Rapture. In public. The human mind is an extraordinary thing.

  20. 20

    @schrodingers_cat: West Point grad, yep. First in his class, even. He comes across to me as none too bright, but that may be in deference to his boss. For a while, people were touting his military experience, but he only got as far as Captain. That’s not even far enough to carry the nuclear “football.”

  21. 21
    Yutsano says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: Congrats Cheryl! I’ll just give you the same advice I gave Imani when her broadcasting career was taking off.

    Little peeps.

    Please to remember us little peeps.

  22. 22

    @Cheryl Rofer: T cabinet has brought us the following
    1. Brain surgeons who are not brainy
    2. Retired military men who are neither honorable nor brave
    3. Business men whose core competency is grift
    4. Nepotism hires
    and so on ..

  23. 23
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    This cracks me up because Davos is one of those environments where our bridge and tunnel trust fund baby ally of the working man has always been, and but for James Comey et al would always have been, and will again be, looked down upon. This is worse than not being able to play golf!

    Donald J. Trump
    Because of the Democrats intransigence on Border Security and the great importance of Safety for our Nation, I am respectfully cancelling my very important trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. My warmest regards and apologies to the @ WEF!

    all of Davos “oh thank god”

  24. 24
    JPL says:

    Cheryl, Congrats!

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: hmm Sounds like someone was a tad stressed. Take care of yourself.

  25. 25

    @Dorothy A. Winsor: I am yelling that at the TV whenever Judy Woodruff is conducting her softball interviews with R spokesbots.

  26. 26
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: According to an ex-coworker, you can’t wade in or allow your dog in the water of Standley Lake, so as not to stir up the plutonium. Sounds overblown for a human water source. And it’s a good thing Rocky Flats isn’t a windy place (pro tip – it is) so as not to spread the plutonium around. The houses go right up to edge of the wildlife (not core) reserve now.

  27. 27
    JPL says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: That might be the only good that comes from the chaos he’s created. What about the other cabinet members?

  28. 28
    trollhattan says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    This article summarizing how things stand at Hanford was the first I’ve read in a long while.

    Growing up in Washington we were not told much about the goings-on there, essentially patting us on our public heads and telling us not to worry. Decades later I was on a proposal team for mid-level waste vitrification and I was flabbergasted that the waste in question is left over from the Manhattan Project. Worked on another proposal for hauling radioactive waste from INL to Hanford via rail, vitrifying it there then hauling it back to Idaho for long-term storage. What could possibly go wrong?

  29. 29
    trollhattan says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:
    High-fives all around. The Swiss give the best high-fives, believe me.

  30. 30
    tobie says:

    Woo-hoo, Cheryl! I will listen to the show online.

  31. 31
    Quinerly says:

    So cool! Congrats!

  32. 32
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @trollhattan: Also Savannah River. It took an FBI raid to expose the bad shit going on at Rocky Flats. The dog park just downwind of the core is considered dangerous for dogs, as many regulars contract cancer.

  33. 33

    @A Ghost To Most:

    According to an ex-coworker, you can’t wade in or allow your dog in the water of Standley Lake, so as not to stir up the plutonium.

    I doubt this. One of the things I learned during my time working on environmental restoration is that people say all kinds of crazy things. There was one incident in, I think, 1958, when plutonium was released. I’m not aware of others. One of my gripes is that I constantly see scary claims about the plutonium being EVERYWHERE AND BLOWING IN THE WIND. I never see actual measurements, not even sketchy “I put a radiation counter on the ground and this is what it said,” I really would like to see the measurements.

    I looked at Google Earth and, indeed, housing is being built up to the edge of the wildlife refuge. But the refuge is many times the area of where the buildings were. And, again, I’d like to see measurements of the plutonium around the edges. The customary thing to do is to have a large buffer area, in which the readings are essentially normal. I’m also seeing that one of the critics of the cleanup lives not far from the refuge.

  34. 34
    JR says:

    Salvarsan, the arsenic that saves!

  35. 35

    @trollhattan: I read the article. As I said about Rocky Flats, I would like to see some numbers, some actual facts, not just a sense of menace conveyed through lurid writing.

    The tanks and the wastes they contain are a problem. And yes, they are left over from the Manhattan Project. There is contamination of the water table under Hanford. I’m not as up to speed on any of that as I once was.

    But it’s hard to take someone seriously when they say OMG THE HALF-LIFE OF PLUTONIUM IS 24,000 YEARS SO IT WILL BE AROUND FOREVER. That long half-life also says it’s not very radioactive. The two are inversely related to each other.

    The article conveys very well the fear that many people feel of what is at Hanford. That is real. There are real problems. I think that the problems could be handled better. But fear doesn’t contribute to finding a solution.

  36. 36

    @A Ghost To Most:

    The dog park just downwind of the core is considered dangerous for dogs, as many regulars contract cancer.

    Considered by whom? Is the cancer rate higher than normal? Does anyone know?

    I suspect the answer to the last is that no study has been done, that some dogs have developed cancer, as happens everywhere, and that has been magnified.

    I’m willing to hear facts, but anecdata isn’t the same as actual measurements.

  37. 37
    Kelly says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    That long half-life also says it’s not very radioactive. The two are inversely related to each other.

    I didn’t know that. My uniformed thought was backwards. Another useful insight from Balloon Juice.

  38. 38
    Gravenstone says:

    @Another Scott:

    The US will work with allies …

    Which allies would those be? We’re so busy insulting, undermining and flat out pissing off so many former allies that I’d be surprised if any of them gave a rat’s ass if we asked them to help.

  39. 39
    Gravenstone says:

    @Kelly: Hey, the radiation adapted wildlife that will succeed the human species has to come from somewhere.

  40. 40
    AThornton says:

    In total numbers killed the most effective chemical “weapon” (sic) wasn’t a weapon at all. It was the Haber-Bosch process for fixing nitrogen with hydrogen to manufacture nitrates, a necessary ingredient for explosives. Without this ability Imperial Germany would have had to surrender in 1915 or so. Considering the on-going affects of WW 1 throughout the 20th Century: Russian Revolution, collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Spanish influenza epidemic, Ukrainian starvation, the miscellaneous and mostly forgotten Central European wars of the 1920s-1930, World War II, & etc. it’s not unreasonable to attribute a 100 million deaths to the process.

  41. 41
    Gravenstone says:

    @trollhattan: Scenes like that always bring me back to Reagan on his way to and from Marine One being relentlessly hectored by Sam Donaldson. Good times.

  42. 42
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Did Trump survive his sojourn at the border or was he kidnapped by one of those bad hombres that he’s told us all about? I guess he’ll be playing the “emergency” card pretty soon since Democrats are so unreasonable that they won’t agree to him funding his phantom wall with billions of tax payer funding. Keep in mind that the $5 billion is just to start the wall. It’s going to cost many more billions than that to actually complete and it won’t be completed within his first term.

    Hang tough, Pelosi.

  43. 43
    trollhattan says:

    @Patricia Kayden:
    Yesterday’s TDS showed a clip of Trump delivering a graduation address (IKR?) in 2005 in which he tells the lucky grads [paraphrasing] that in life they will run into walls, but whenever that happens they need to smash, knock down and go through that wall, even if it’s concrete. I’d like to see that run several times a day until the end of his menace, er, term in office.

  44. 44
    JPL says:

    @Patricia Kayden: 5 billion is for a couple hundred miles. He could use that money to add more inspectors at points of entry to help reduce the amount of drugs coming into the country.

    btw I’m preaching to the choir out of frustration.

  45. 45
    Tim C. says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: That sounds like an interesting story. Clearly he had some abilities that translated to success at the academy, but then clearly did not translate to a successful military career. Alternately, something happened after graduation to alter his skill/personality set.

  46. 46
    Catherine D. says:

    A PSA – the free BBC iPlayer radio app works in the US. You can listen live (8 pm UK time) or listen later by searching for the program name.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    trollhattan says:

    @Millard Filmore:
    Nice :-)

  49. 49
    dmsilev says:

    @Kelly: A useful analogy to think of is a bucket full of water draining from a hole in the bottom. If it’s a big hole, water comes out in a big stream (highly radioactive), but the bucket drains quickly (short half-life). If the bucket takes a long time to drain (long half-life), that means the hole has to be small and the water only trickles our.

    (Not a perfect analogy, but gets the essence across(

  50. 50
    StringOnAStick says:

    @schrodingers_cat: I’m afraid being hot stuff at West Point isn’t a sanity indicator. For every Wesley Clarke there’s a Pompeo, and maybe/probably more than one. My RW nut job father went to West Point (did not graduate due to a congenital back problem), and he was a John Bircher way back when you had to actively seek that stuff out and it was all bad, out of focus copies. The day that cable brought FOX News into the parental household is when he finally found his “home”, and he’s now had a place to acquire his daily rage and propaganda fix ever since. I strongly suspect that a constant FOX diet accelerated my mother’s decline into an angry and depressed dementia before she died last summer. FOX and related crap ruined my dad’s relationship with every one of his kids and now that he’s widowed and 87, he’s finding he finally wants a relationship with us; the rules are “no politics, period” but you can tell when he’s gotten a big FOX dose, he fairly vibrates with rage. What a great way to spend your retirement years.

    I find after all the years of his screaming abuse about my improper politics that while I am doing what I think is the right thing as far as being there for him, I’m sure I will never trust him or respect him the way I see people who had better parent/child relationships do. I’m going through the motions.

  51. 51
    Aleta says:

    About the waste storage. Have there ever been arguments for keeping waste accessible (for example, not deeply buried under Yucca mountain)? Such as a (futuristic) hope that someday humans might figure out how to safely extract usable, necessary elements from it? (I’m not arguing for this.) Have ideas like that had any effect on designing storage solutions, or contributed to postponing them?

  52. 52
    Kelly says:

    @dmsilev: That’s good analogy. I was just now thinking of radiation as bullets in a magazine. A machine gun does a lot of damage quickly, a bolt action takes longer.

  53. 53
    Mike in NC says:

    Democrats can cut a deal with Fat Bastard, giving him $5B with the caveat that not another penny will ever be funded. That might buy him a wall that’s about 18 inches high. Win-win!

  54. 54
    catclub says:


    My uniformed thought was backwards.

    Have you heard of the radioactive reserve?

  55. 55
    catclub says:

    @Mike in NC:

    Democrats can cut a deal with Fat Bastard, giving him $5B with the caveat that not another penny will ever be funded.

    Except, for people who already routinely break their word, what difference does that caveat make?
    They will go back to saying anyone who opposes the additional ask is against border security and for open borders.

    It would be more useful to start the negotiations by asking how the money already appropriated has been spent – or not.

  56. 56
    Mart says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I remember learning about the test reactor SL-1 in Idaho that blew up in 1960 in a super-heated steam explosion. Believe that large tracks of land are still fenced off. Understanding was it was a breeder reactor that makes some fuel while burning fuel, and should be inherently safer then the ones we use in the USA. The military operators (was going on to be used in subs) screwed up the rod location – raising over 20 inches instead of permitted 5 inches, and that resulted in the reactor instantly blowing up. So now we cannot have breeder reactors like the French. I am not a physicist, am old, and these are memories from a radiation safety class. Let me know if I got things screwed up.

  57. 57
    Kelly says:

    @catclub: My spelling and physics both need work ;-)

  58. 58
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Mike in NC:

    That might buy him a wall that’s about 18 inches high.

    That’s very Spinal Tap.

  59. 59

    @Aleta: There have been arguments for practically anything you can think of. Some of the waste has been useful, like cesium-137, which has been used in hospital irradiators for cancer treatment. Much of that was removed from the Hanford tanks. It is being less used in hospitals now because of the danger it will be used in dirty bombs and replaced by accelerators, in which electricity produces x-rays for irradiation. By and large, processing makes more of a mess than you start out with.

    Yucca Mountain is pretty much ready to go, technically speaking. Harry Reid didn’t want the used fuel elements brought to his state, though, so it is politically dead. That is why storage faciliities are being built in Texas and one is planned for New Mexico, along with others at reactors. These are temporary storage and less safe than Yucca Mountain. And, IIRC, the storage at Yucca Mountain would be retrievable – that is, the materials could be accessed if a use were found for them.

  60. 60

    @Mart: I think you’re conflating two accidents. The SL-1 accident, it turns out, was a murder-suicide over a romantic triangle. One of the technicians’ wives was sleeping with another technician. The first technician withdrew the rods too quickly, and that was that.

    The Fermi Breeder Reactor in Detroit had a number of problems, including a partial meltdown in 1966, after which it was shut down. There are many reasons we don’t have breeder reactors, and the French are moving away from theirs. One of the big reasons is that the fuel needs to be reprocessed, which produces a lot of waste. The French have found ways to deal with the waste, but the whole process is uneconomical. One of the reasons that breeder reactors were big back in the 1960s was that people thought there wasn’t enough uranium to keep a reactor economy going. We’ve found a lot more since then.

  61. 61

    Trump is a stupid negotiator. It never occurs to him that he should give the Ds something they want in exchange for what he wants. Maybe he thinks reducing the amount is asking for counts as giving them something they want, which it isn’t. It’s still what he wants. That’s all he ever sees.

  62. 62
    Another Scott says:

    @dmsilev: Good.

    Another way to remember it is – the half life of the proton is 10^32 years (1 with 32 zeros after it).

    Long half-lives are good the good ones (if all else is equal).


  63. 63
    trollhattan says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    Population trends doomed Yucca Mountain. Nevada has crossed the 3 million mark, up from fewer than 500k in 1970, about 800k in 1980 and 1.2M in 1990. Yucca Mountain was selected by congress in 1987. IMHO a fast-growing state will reject any project like it, regardless of how appropriate the site may be technically.

  64. 64
    Duane says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: It seems Trumpov is isolating himself more and more. Not going to Florida during the holidays. Walking out of the meeting yesterday. Now the Davos cancellation. The behavior seems increasingly erratic. I’m certainly not a mental health expert, but I think he’s spending a lot of time talking to dead presidents.

  65. 65
    catclub says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor:

    Maybe he thinks reducing the amount [he] is asking for counts as giving them something they want, which it isn’t.

    Except the latest ask actually increased, it just had a bit more ‘humanitarian’ funds added.

  66. 66

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