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The base of human exterminators



I expect you've seen this - - someone finally got a camera into the Laundry...


No, that was really cool!


That was neat to see. Its amazing the amount of resources that countries put into weapons that no sane person ever wanted to use. What a piece of history though.


After seeing that, I'm wondering why I never twigged before that there would be a strong kinship between mobile missile lauchers and argricultural equipment, when in retrospect it seems so obvious that of course there would be. I mean, they're called tractors for a reason.

Also, that 'superpower cooling system' seems like a really useful thing to be able to deploy in event of a tense nuclear standoff.


So the actual command centre was a vertical cylinder on springs within a large hole excavated underground? From just one missile centre?
Its scary and incredible at the same time.


AIUI that is standard procedure for US ICBM fields as well: an underground shock-proof armoured capsule for the launch crew, communicating via cable duct with missile silos far enough away that an H-bomb landing on one won't take out the others.


In the middle, I just had a big biiiig smile.

My mother chided me a lot because, on the only trip to soviet russia I ever did (in the seventies), the only non-blurry picture I came back with was...

... the toilet!

They make sturdy toilets in there!

(actually, the hotel we were in Leningrad - now St. Petersburg - was brand new, all the rooms were close to unfinished... except for the toilets. Oh, and it was much better than the military one)


Fascinating. Anyone know what the poisonous rocket fuel was?


wikipedia says the fuel in question was unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH), using nitrogen tetroxide as an oxidizer.


I toured one of these in Lithuania a few years ago - more rust, more decay, worse lighting, but still pure evil. Haven't been to any of the US ones, though I've got friends in the UK who bought a used missile silo to build a data center in.


The totally disgraceful closure of the PO railway is a memorial to road-lobby cooruption that (almst) equals that of Ernest Amrples, and his henchman, Beeching.

There was NO ECONOMIC JUSTIFICATION for closing the PO railwayt.
There was a lot ot (apparent) profit for the (as it turned out) temporary chief of the GPO.

No-one seems prepared to revese this insanity!


On a related note, the mention of the tissue samples of the bin Laden's sister to get his DNA profile reminded me of 'Fuller Memorandum'; seems like Bob has to do some nasty homework, like cremate his late loved ones, to stay clear.


You may also be interested in Sergey Larenkov's work:

He's taking WWII photographs, and photoshopping them into the modern day cityscapes with photos taken from the same angles.


If you've got a couple million (Dollars) on hand and you need your very own subterranean lair, there are several decommissioned Titan and Atlas ICBM bases available for sale in the U.S.:


Look at it this way, the reason the Cold War never went "hot", escalating to World War III was the existence of those weapons. Without them I am confident that at some point, my best guess is one of the crises over Berlin, full scale war would have broken out between the US and USSR. Compared to the expense of such a war in money, to say nothing of the irreplaceable lives sure to be lost, the billions spent on such weapons are a bargain.

Does that mean we had to build as many as we did? Surely not. It is my belief that the kind of mindset from conventional munitions was difficult to set aside. In terms of number of tanks, fighters, or tubes of artillery military power scales roughly linearly with the number of weapons possessed. If you have twice as many tanks as you had before, then you are twice as strong in that military dimension.

With nuclear weapons, OTOH, once you have enough to destroy every major city the opponent has even after allowing for those that have been destroyed, failed to function, or otherwise failed to join the carnage, additional weapons make you no stronger. The problem is that when you see the other side building more nukes and delivery systems, it feels like you are losing strength relative to them, as would be the case if we were talking about conventional munitions. So this causes you to build more nuclear weapons, causing the other side to feel relatively "weaker", starting the cycle again.

Does it make any rational sense? No, but it is hard to ignore the fact that it feels like your nemesis is growing stronger when they are building new strategic systems and you are standing pat and even if you want to look at things rationally it is very easy for the hawks on your side to paint you as letting the other side steal a march on you. Our current level of nuclear forces, or less, probably would have been just fine as a deterrent, as opposed to the immense nuclear arsenals we had during the Cold War. So, from a perspective what is needed to provide a deterrent, the excess weapon systems might be seen as a waste of money. I am just happy that no one went so far 'round the bend as to actually use those weapons, it scares me how close we got at some points.


Reminded me of this website that I ran across several years ago about Chernobyl... and is still apparently up. A young woman drove her motorcycle around Chernobyl a few years after the meltdown. Great photos.



Sorry about the typos - will teach me to send messages at 01.17, when kanckered.

Let's try again shall we?
I SHOULD have said:

The totally disgraceful closure of the PO railway is a memorial to road-lobby cooruption that (almost) equals that of Ernest Marples, and his henchman, Beeching.

There was NO ECONOMIC JUSTIFICATION for closing the PO railway.
There was a lot ot (apparent) profit for the (as it turned out) temporary chief of the GPO, who had lots of interesting contacts inside the Road Haulage industry.

No-one seems prepared to revese this insanity!


While there is no doubt that the young woman in question did take photos inside the Chernobyl zone, there is a lot of doubt that she traveled in solo on a motorcycle.

Wiki has a short paragraph on the controversy. You can find it by searching Wiki for "Elena Filitova".


hmmmmm another interesting look at decommissioned cold war installations. Have seen a few with similar content usually based around ICBM, Space vehicle installations, or Chernobyl/other soviet reactor complexes.
There are some nice video travelogues of such things on youtube too.
Maybe am shallow, or maybe i play games too much, but i couldn't help but think of S.T.A.L.K.E.R games series as i looked over the ICBM centre pics.
Maybe its a testament to the developers ability, to render those kind of soviet installations with such a sense of realism and high fidelity.
One observation i feel compelled to make. The tendency some observers have to self generate (IMHO) a bogus sense of foreboding doom or evil from such images. The truth is the actual images are no different from thousands of other soviet (and other nations) infrastructure designed with benign purposes. if a collection of such images from different installations were presented together, i am certain not many people would be able to distinguish the 'malign' from the 'benign'.
Which brings the foreboding perceived by some into question for me.
Personally i have no emotional reaction at all, other than geeky curiosity at a look into the broken toy box of governmental industrial complex. Same reaction i get to hydro dams, powerplants, PO railway, NASA,etc.


minor quibble - with conventional forces, I believe the correct formula is that doubling the size of your force increases it's effectiveness by a factor of root 2. I can't remember the name of that theorem, but it's to do with the amount of that force that you can bring to bear on your opponent? I'm not sure about this.


Once the Post Office shifted from mail being dispatched from Railway stations to new dedicated hubs further out, where new automated sorting offices could be built on industrial estates, there was not much point sending post to Liverpool St or Paddington.

By the end i think it was losing a million a month. The unions may have complained that it was deliberately run down, but that was because of the change in rail terminus. Some had said that to keep it relevant they should extended the line out to Willesdon, but I don't think the Royal mail was going to spend tens of millions to do it.

People suggest deliveries to Oxford Street Stores instead. But that is entirely unreasonable.

1 The trains are small, much smaller than the boxes or cloth rails goods are delivered.

2 Uneconomic transhipment points. It would require trucks to unload and break deliveries down and fit them on the train to the be brought back to surface and put on other trucks to get to the shops.

3 Building new stations under Oxford street would solve that problem, apart from the vast expense and the problem of hundreds of shops that would need access.

I suspect that it may see a future as undergrounf utility tunnels.


Here is a tour of an abandoned US site:


This may be instructive:

A time-lapse map of every known nuclear explosion between 1945 and 1998. Interesting to see who was leading, often by a very large margin…


Oh blimey, EnglishRussia - that is one hell of a website.


for example.

I find it hard to believe that the concept artists on Portal 2 haven't seen that...

It's so, so, obviously wrong, but there's still a weird kind of harsh beauty about it.


22 not so
There were definte proposals to EXTEND the PO rail system out to the Willesden main-line rail-connected hub, especially, thus getting rid of even more road-traffic in Central London.
But that didn't suit the corrupt boss of the PO.

You have to remember that the same "management" (temporarily) closed down the entire PO rail-delivery system on the railways, claiming it was "inefficient/expensive/out-of-date" (etc ....)
About 5 seconds after this idiot had gone, the contracts were re-opened, re-negotiated, and we have the "Night Mail" (and other mail trains) running again again.


OK. I'll bite. What does this site mean by "stalker"? Apparently it doesn't have the same meaning it does in the US.


A piki-link:

That's the first game of three.

Basically it's a series of FPS's, very loosely based on the novella/film/novel Roadside Picnic/Stalker/Stalker.


I'd recommend that you watch this movie and look up this series of videogames


But definitely watch the Tarkovsky movie first. The game's fun, but the film, oh my gosh it's special.


OK. Its use here has to do with gaming. I gave up on most computer games years ago. Basically for the same reason an alcoholic quits drinking. :)


As a minor nit, there aren't any decommissioned silos in the UK (although there was a prototype built at Spadeadam, apparently). Such bunkers as have made it on to the market are almost entirely ex-Civil Defence setups; basically just a small office block with a filtration system, some telephone lines, and built-in accommodation.

There's an excellent resource in the "Cold War" section of the excellent Subterranea Britannica website ( which maps all of the former Royal Observer Corps posts and group HQs - my father worked for the ROC in the 1980s, so I'm mildly familiar with them :) A lot of them have since been demolished.

The bad news for Charlie is that Barnton Quarry (as featured in "Halting State") had a fire a few years ago, and is riddled with asbestos; obviously some software startups have deep pockets...


The thing that gets me is how, on the seat where the missiles are launched from, there's seat belts.


While there is no doubt that the young woman in question did take photos inside the Chernobyl zone, there is a lot of doubt that she traveled in solo on a motorcycle.
There are always some people who want to stir up controversy. I've read the whole site. It's obviously the result of many visits, she doesn't claim that she was always alone, and there are several pics of her motorcycle in the zone.
It's a very beautiful and fascinating site, which should be carefully studied by nuclear power proponents until they recover fully.
The truly fascinating thing is her suggestion that the wolves land is expanding. Will this be the fate of Northern Japan?


One assumes that's so the operator isn't thrown around unduly when the 1-megaton capitalist nuke explodes overhead.


I, and a group of bikers I know, read and discussed this site some years ago. The general conclusion we came to was that, whilst we were uncertain as to whether or not she was actually alone, she had certainly made several trips into the zone by motorcycle.


I was aware of the flooding/asbestos issue; I just expected someone to do something about it within 15 years. And based the premises on how I envisaged a modern secure-IT rework of this site to look.


Nuclear weapons are actually not that destructive against hardened targets. To destroy one of those silos you need to physically dig it out ie it has to be inside the bomb crater.

On a related theme, something never mentioned during the Cold War - the one who shoots first loses, providing there is no immediate retaliation.

A destroys all of B's cities etc, but B does not shoot back. However, B still has enough to destroy A over a long or short period of time, and nothing to lose. So after a while B politely asks for the surrender of A - or else.


So after a while B politely asks for the surrender of A - or else.

Somehow I don't think it works that way in practice. Something to do with primate endocrinology, maybe ...


Good point about the deterrent factor, and I whole heartedly agree. I remember as a schoolboy in the 80's learning that the US and USSR collectively had enough nuclear weapons to render the earth uninhabitable 7 times! (or so we were told) Even then I thought that seemed a bit excessive. I realize any military scenario would have figured for significant losses in the early salvos, and redundant backups would be needed. On some level, I always thought it seemed to degrade to international comparison of genatalia size. See this warhead, my bombs are HUGE!! Its an interesting and wierd time in history. I can remember people talking about WWIII with the Russians like it was inevitable.


In which case B bombs A's cities one at a time over the coming months (or years). I presumed that that scenario was what led to the notion of rungs of escalation rather than Kahn's "spasm"


Woo, first ever comment here. Hopefully it's not drivel.

As previous commentators have noted, those underground installations were hardened - engineering solidity and all that.

That series of photographs was taken at a Strategic Rocket Forces museum in the Ukraine, of course. I think it was an RT-23 Molodets (Scalpel, in the West) site.

Anyway, Soviet LCFs evolved a good deal over the years - I think the site featured in that EnglishRussia feature was built relatively recently, in something like the late 1970s. I don't know about how the LCFs looked for earlier types of missiles, but the type featured is probably a relatively late-generation design. The first Soviet ICBMs were, well, better-suited to be space launchers; later, they came up with somewhat more practical ones. The Soviets used liquid fuels for their strategic missiles much more than the US did. Some early designs, even though they were relatively practical in other aspects, used cryogenic oxidizers; i.e. LOX. Now, LOX isn't that nasty compared to some of the other things you can fill a missile with, but it's not storable; it takes a lot of work to keep a missile topped up with cryogenic propellant. The fuel itself might be really nasty, too; you might have to keep the missiles normally defuelled, and fill them up in a crisis. Then you could only keep them that way for 24 hours or so; after that, you'd have to carefully defuel them and sent them back for a factory overhaul. The silos might be sited very close together in order to save on pumping equipment.

The US had an early lead in ICBMs and went through a couple generations of basing designs, too, but I think once they got to the Minuteman force, they stuck with the silo/support/launch-control infrastructure they'd built, adapting it as necessary as their land-based ICBM force evolved. As far as I recall, the most modern US LCFs are mid-60s-era, at least as far as the concrete-and-huge springs aspect goes; they're not really comparable in design to what's featured. Buried capsules, sure, but they're a bit shallower, and they're not sited in modified silo pits. The buried capsules in question are shaped kind of like oversized pharmaceutical capsules, and buried horizontally-oriented. Cut-and-cover, lined pit, etc.

The Soviets, unlike the US, though, kept building more silos and focused somewhat more on their land-based ICBM force. Their land-based ICBM force was a good deal more diverse; they deployed more heavy ICBMs (i.e. the R-36 series, which includes the missile known as the SS-18 in the West) and probably this can be chalked up in large part to the fact that the aerospace industry in the Soviet Union was a bit...byzantine, although there were other factors. They built new silos and related infrastructure for much longer than the US did, and so I guess they had more of an opportunity to keep them evolving.

The US, in contrast, upgraded the missiles, and maybe if necessary ripped out and replaced the fittings in the bunkers and such they'd already constructed.

There's some other stuff, too; maybe it's already been linked, but:

That's the same time of command bunker; they're called Unified Command Posts. This one's abandoned and grimy. Note the interior shots, in particular the oxygen bottles. I like the seatbelts.

Although they're very different in design, the UCPs remind me of the command bunker setup they had for the Atlas ICBM facilities; those were vertically-oriented, too.

As for comment 35, well...the situation around Fukushima and Chernobyl is hardly comparable. When it comes to Western nuclear power plants, even in really nasty scenarios, the Chernobyl scenario is not relevant.

Here's the museum's website:

English link on top-right, for those of you who don't know Russian. That part's fairly incomplete, though.

Anyone else reminded of some kind of combat spacecraft by the UCP canisters, by the way? It's the breathing-gas canisters and the belted seats that do it.


As for comment 35, well...the situation around Fukushima and Chernobyl is hardly comparable. When it comes to Western nuclear power plants, even in really nasty scenarios, the Chernobyl scenario is not relevant.
It's always a pleasure to find a happy optimist, even if they have no reason for their jolly beliefs.


I would much rather be next to a nuclear power plant that had problems, even a worst-case scenario incident, than next to a hydroelectric dam or an oil refinery. Or a chemical plant. Given the likely scenarios, can walk away from the nuclear power plant. You might have to walk away pretty fast, or beat someone up and steal their bicycle, and maybe take some iodine tablets, but probably the worst you're looking at is somewhat increased risk of cancer a few years down the line.

There have been numerous documented, and quite dramatic, dam failures, on the other hand. The Banqiao Dam in 1975 (or was it 1976) springs to mind. So does the Johnstown Dam failure in 1889. It's rather easier to get away safely from a nuclear power plant; you'd probably have toxic gasses vented into the air and maybe burning stuff, but if you have a Geiger counter or a dosimeter it advertises itself quite nicely, and it's possible to quite effectively mitigate the spewing of radioactive crap in many scenarios. Much of the radioactivity released is also going to be nitrogen-7 or whatever - very short-lived species. I'd rather try and get away from that than attempt to outrun a massive onrushing wall of water. Or take shelter when an oil refinery (or, say, a solid rocket motor-plant, or an ammunition dump) starts having problems, although at least that'd be fun to watch. Or avoid billowing clouds of toxic gasses, a la Bhopal.

Let's compare the RBMK and Western reactor designs, shall we?


-The Russian-language name means "high power channel type reactor," or words to that effect.
-Evolved from plutonium-production reactors.
-Graphite moderator, light-water coolant, unenriched uranium fuel
-Has fueling machine to allow on-load refueling. Fueling machine is very tall.
-Height of fueling machine, and other factors, made putting in the kind of containment building Western reactors tend to have harder.
-I think the steam conditions in the main coolant loop are sort of like what you might get on some BWRs. There's a phase transition involved.
-It's just channels, as the name states; there's no pressure vessel like in a PWR.
-Does not need any separated isotopes to run. Plain old water, albeit filtered and clean, will do for the coolant, and it will burn natural uranium.
-Has several dangerous design flaws - unlike all Western reactors, the original version of the design had the infamous positive thermal void coefficient. It gained power at higher temperatures, as the primary coolant began a phase transition and voids of water vapor began to form. Due to the graphite there was still enough of a moderator effect to sustain fission, but with the water now doing funny things, the neutron flux and hence the rate of fission could increase. That's very dangerous.
-There were other problems - the control rods were designed funny, with graphite tips, I think either the coolant/fuel tubes in the core were arranged the wrong way, so there were dangerous thermal gradients across their lengths...let's also not forget the lack of a proper containment building. Or all that graphite, which could burn. Or poor operator training, and all the various flaws of being built and operated within the Soviet system. That led to all kinds of non-nuclear catastrophes, by the way, which we'll get to later.


-Evolved from naval propulsion reactors, at least in the US. (The same can be said for their Soviet equivalents, the VVERs, which have a rather better safety record.)
-Light water coolant and moderator.
-Takes somewhat enriched uranium fuel; requires it, in fact.
-The important difference is that these reactors have negative void coefficients; they lose power at high temperatures. Voids form in the primary coolant loop; this means a reduction in the moderator effect, since the water does all the moderating.

I guess you can take a look at that other ("two months on") comment thread; the consequences of the disaster at Fukushima, compared with the overall impact of the enormous earthquake and tsunami, are rather minor. The effect of the earthquake and tsunami on a nuclear power plant didn't make the difference between the whole thing being your run-of-the-mill unpleasantness and an epic catastrophe; it was just icing on the cake. The BWRs at Fukushima were among the oldest in the Japanese reactor fleet and lacked many modern safety features; even so, they've held up pretty well. As far as I recall, there still haven't been any fatalities attributable to the nuclear events; in contrast, several people were drowned when a nearby dam failed and washed out a town or two, and an oil refinery exploded and burned for a week. Any long-term excess fatalities because of radiation-induced cancers will probably be very difficult to discern; they might well be drowned by the general long-term public health effects of the earthquake and tsunami.

The Soviets caused plenty of environmental catastrophes without recourse to nuclear technology, although perhaps nuclear electricity played some part. (Mind you, they could just have easily got that electricity burning coal.) Ever hear of a place called Dzerzhinsk? Hub of the Soviet chemical industry for many years. PCB capital of the world, or something like that. Lots of chemical weapons production there, too. It's a toxic hellhole, and it looks the part - it might have improved lately, but there are these dramatic-looking pools of toxic crap, black sludge with corroded barrels. We're talking Half Life 2 canal levels material here.

There's also Norilsk. This was built by convict labor in the 30s in an area with very rich nickel deposits, I think because of an ancient asteroid impact. Lots of smelters. There's this one smelter in Norilsk - not a single living tree within 40 kilometers. The concentration of heavy metals in the soil around Norilsk is so high, it's actually economical to mine the soil. The whole place is dreadfully polluted, and it looks the part, too - dead trees, gray barren hillsides, the works.

Or how about the Aral Sea? More Half Life 2 material there - all the rusting stranded boats and ships your heart could possibly desire. They sit there, forlorn and abandoned, in the middle of a cracked and desolate desert landscape. There's nothing but dust and the occasional hardy shrub for kilometers around. Here and there, bits of miscellaneous garbage protrude from what was once the bottom of one of the largest inland seas in the world. And the harsh Central Asian sun, up there in the brilliant blue sky - the famous white sun of the desert - is always beating down. What little is left is still shrinking. That huge mass of what was once lakebed but is now dry, exposed dust is bad news - there's hardly any plant life to extend roots into all that stuff to anchor it and keep it from being blown about by the various winds. That's how dust bowls happen. It took a while to do this, true, but it was accomplished by just diverting some rivers - it was a big irrigation project. The ancient Egyptians, or the Chaldeans, could have done it with enough warm bodies and shovels.

Moving elsewhere, as was mentioned in another comment thread on this blog, there's the example of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Coal mine fire. How about Chicago's Bubbly Creek? How about one of several dozen rather toxic copper mine sites in the US? At at least a few, the open pits, filling with rain over the years, have turned into rather toxic artificial lakes. How about the dozens of coal-mining fatalities the US suffers from every year, or the excess deaths in the US that arise because some people have no choice but to live downwind of coal-fired power plants? There are probably areas downwind of some that are in their own way probably quite as nasty and toxic as what much of the Zone of Alienation has to offer.

Eh, probably a bit incomplete, still, but I have to get back to my structures assignment. You must view these things in perspective; quite probably there has been an enormous overreaction to the events at Fukushima in particular, and the nuclear effects in particular have been enormously overemphasized compared with the overall results of the tsunami and earthquake, which by the way caused lots of very severe problems at all kinds of other industrial facilities. They'll probably have to deal with all kinds of toxic runoff, from chemical plants to dry-cleaners, and I bet a lot of sewer systems overflowed, too.

Worried about a Fukushima scenario? Well, a lot of the more modern reactors in Japan have enough safety features - containment design has advanced since then, after all - to preclude it. The reactor shut down successfully despite the earthquake; it's just that the tsunami drowned some of the support facilities, and they couldn't maintain cooling. It can't be that hard to make those things somewhat more washout-proof, can it? Hell, Japan has long been a center of innovation in shipbuilding and naval architecture - they could look to that to figure out a solution, perhaps. If you're really worried, have some kind of rapid-response task force to swoop in and perform emergency stabilization if necessary. Probably extend that to cover other types of important infrastructure as well, actually...

Now, can we return to the subject of launch control facilities and missiles?


I would much rather be next to a nuclear power plant that had problems, even a worst-case scenario incident, than next to a hydroelectric dam or an oil refinery. Or a chemical plant. Given the likely scenarios, can walk away from the nuclear power plant. You might have to walk away pretty fast, or beat someone up and steal their bicycle, and maybe take some iodine tablets, but probably the worst you're looking at is somewhat increased risk of cancer a few years down the line.

Quote from memory, from Paul Brickhill's "The Dam Busters" (history of 617 "Dam Busters" Sqdn RAF during WW2), and specificially relating to the breach of the Möhne Dam during "Operation Chastise":-

"They saw a car racing down the valley away from the flood at over 60mph, then the flood caught it, and its lights vanished." I think your case is pretty much made.


compared with the overall results of the tsunami and earthquake, which by the way caused lots of very severe problems at all kinds of other industrial facilities. They'll probably have to deal with all kinds of toxic runoff, from chemical plants to dry-cleaners, and I bet a lot of sewer systems overflowed, too.

Yes. We can detect radiation from a distance but how do you find all the hurried motor oil, gas, bug poison, ammonia from AC units, etc... Plus just what was in all that harbor sludge that now coats most everything several miles inland on many places?

On a related note they keep talking about 10,000 to 20,000 missing. Is that reported missing or is someone going through census, property, school, etc..., records to see who is missing but no one asking about them? My understanding of Japan is that families are much more compact geographically than the US and likely the EU. Which could mean that many families might be entirely wiped out with no ine left to report anyone missing.



Still learning to iPad type.


If you want to know how much ionizing radiation a population can live with, in some places in Kerala India the Thorium sands push the background up to 400x normal. Pripyat, the abandoned town at Chernobyl, is generally considerably less than that.


What has happened after Scotland's part core meltdown in 64. I was reminded of that when looking up Radiation hormesis. Dr. teller said a little "Radiation is good for you." This was founded by studies done by the US Atomic Energy commission and others. Everything about the lives of everything from worms to chimps after Radiation . The East German nuke data could have info on humans. All we hear is the anti-bomb legend over and over. The best on Radiation hormesis was in Wikipedi. It has real facts in it. I think, that's not always true in Wikipedi.



There is the famous case of Ramsar, in Iran. For reasons of geology (the place also has somewhat-radioactive spring waters, which are supposed to be good for you) the place has very high levels of ambient radiation. It's Iran, mind you - not as healthy as a Western country, although perhaps they drink less and that has a positive effect - but as far as several studies have been able to determine, the radiation doesn't have much of an effect.

As for base facilities - well, as some of you may know, silos are a British invention. Of course, where the hell are you going to put silos in a country like the UK? [They built at least one. It's still there; it might even be open to the public.] France had a few silo-based IRBMs, as I recall [sic; IR means intermediate, instead of intercontinental, range] but those were retired as they expanded their SLICBM force. And they had more geographic options.

On a lighter note, anyone read the EnglishRussia/RVSN Museum descriptions of those facilities in the Team Fortress 2 Heavy's voice? "It costs $400 000 to open this 120-ton silo door in eight seconds," etc.


BTW, there is one big difference between high natural background radiation and somewhere like Chernobyl. With the latter you get particulate hotspots. Breath one of those in and the localized dose to (say) lung tissue is enormous.


neat post


Well, you're getting better at discussions; problem is, you still point to the East German data, when I already told you that I wanted some external sources about it, especially since the 'East German data' in question might be just the typical 'comrade colonel, comrade Horst mentioned a dirty joke on Ulbricht' gossip of the Stasi (elaborating on MFS newspeak is beyond my scope here).

And then, I see little reason why Teller should be an authority on this issue, well, at least compared to a radiation physician or biologist. Same goes of course not just for physicists, but also and even more so for politicians, sociologists, historians and like in general, provided they have no other expertise in this area[1].

[1] Don't get me started on the general job creation programs for second rate politicians, union leaders and church people that passes for 'ethics commision' these days. Funny thing given the nice history of said institutions, but I digress. For Germany, see:ür_eine_sichere_Energieversorgung

Ok, the industrial conterpart is this one:

No radiation biologists, a few physicians, and the rest is the kind of people I'd set up an ethics commision to protect us against...


I am arriving in medias res, so I suppose someone will have to brief me on the local controversies. The effect of the nuclear industry on the exposure to radiation of the general public is a pretty contentious issue in the wider world; is it particular emphasized in exchanges here? Or perhaps I could just lurk more.

Anyway, as for hotspots - that's a good point. The old saw about the statistician who drowned in a river that was a meter deep on average comes to mind. The hotspots in the Chernobyl Zone are areas where the fallout might have been particularly intense, right? I suppose that means that there's nasty particulate crap lying around. Maybe the wind does enough to mobilize it, depending on soil conditions and how much rainfall there's been lately and so on; maybe, again depending on soil conditions and rainfall, you kick it up if you walk there, or inadvertently get it on your hands and then get it inside, via oral contact or something. And of course the general level of radiation would be even higher than in the surrounding contaminated areas.

Is that how particulate hotspots work?

If the stuff in the hotspots is that nasty, though, it must advertise itself. We don't have any built-in instrumentation (well, not yet) but I'm sure Geiger counters adequate enough for the purpose of warning you when to get the hell away are available, and that most people could learn to use them well enough for the purpose, even if there were false alarms. And what the hell would you be doing in the zone of alienation, or any other radioactively-contaminated area, without the appropriate gear?

There are also, besides the "natural" hotspots, the vehicle/equipment graveyards. I wonder if those vehicles are mostly hazardous because they got covered in sticky radioactive crap, or because they themselves were radioactively activated; probably more of the former. Of course, the vehicle-equipment graveyards are blindingly obvious; again, what the hell are you doing in the zone of alienation if you don't know that the vehicle graveyards are hazardous?

(I wouldn't be too eager about frolicking in and around a non-radioactive collection of various abandoned Soviet vehicles that had literally weathered 30 years in the open, however. Plenty of things besides radiation are deadly - maybe it's just a baseless gripe, but it seems like a lot of people act as if strange and unpleasant death is a product of the nuclear age.)


Particulate hotspots are literally tiny particles of radioactive material, which although probably as small as a particle of dust are intensely radioactive. So while you are sweeping your GM counter around you might find background a bit higher than normal, but if you get right on top of one of these particles the counter starts screaming.

If you want to check this for yourself in the UK you can pop down to some of the mudflats along the coast from Sellafield. The background there is around 2x normal (compared to just off the beach area) but if you dig around you can find localized patches considerably higher intensity. Or you could. Last time I did that was 20 years ago.

Like you say, bad to ingest.


Locales such as Ramsar in India, or indeed the Izu penisnsula in Japan itself which has a lot of hot springs also have a lot of particulate (e.g. radium) and gaseous (e.g. radon) radioactive materials floating about in the atmosphere. They grow food in those areas and root crops pick up and concentrate the soil-based radioactive materials which people eat for years or decades with little or no apparent ill-effects, according to epidemiological studies.

An event such as Tchernobyl or Fukushima tends to throw highly mobile radioactive materils over an area which had not until then had a high background count and so thay are regarded as being more of a danger than the steady-state Business As Usual places with high levels of "natural" contamination in the environment. The Business As Usual thinking is why coal-fired power stations get away with day to day releases of radioactivity at a level that would have any nuclear power station shut down because in their case it's normal working practice whereas any significant release of nuclear materials from a NPP is a sign of something going wrong.


Dr. teller did say said "a little Radiation is good for you." But this was founded by studies done by the US Atomic Energy commission and others. The effects of Radiation on the lives of everything from worms to chimps is known. And all the real data shows the any amount will kill you is just plan wrong. In fact as long as you do not go too far, it is good for all the species checked. The human point is unknown. Maybe, just maybe the East German's had some info that could, thats could, be useful. My point was we don't know.


Hm. I didn't know the "hotspot" term referred to individual particles. And, of course, once again we get to the crux of the matter: we seem to be perfectly willing to accept the radiation coal burning releases into the environment. I suppose some hotspot particles are pretty nasty, but those probably cool down before too long - apparently it was theorized that they might burn a localized hole in your lung or something, but I think I read somewhere else that that notion was a bit dodgy to begin with.

Another thing: a good deal of that mercury, although it's not the main source, ends up in fish. That hits me in particular - I love seafood. And it affects fisheries everywhere.

Could someone bring me up to speed on this East German data, or should I just Google it? Apparently it's somewhat suspect - is it epidemiological stuff? I know the business about leukemia hotspots near NPPs is bogus - they failed to account for lots of other effects, and apparently living near a nuclear power plant is statically more likely to reduce childhood leukemia in the vicinity.

Seems kind of like a crude tactic - "Oh no, think of the children," etc. Of course, lots of kids live near coal-fired power plants...

Robert Sneddon - I know that name. Do you ever comment on, uh, DepletedCranium?


Martin van Crevald has suggested that as an empirical fact nuclear-armed states appear to be less willing to engage in aggressive military actions than their non-nuclear counterparts, given ceteris paribus. Atoms for peace, indeed.

I would think that is a plausible hypothesis (although there is one possible modern counterexample, which is not the United States) but I also think it possible that he is misattributing the cause.

But I do not know. Thoughts?


"Seems kind of like a crude tactic - "Oh no, think of the children,""

It works because half the population is below average intelligence. And probably at least as many are swayed by emotional arguments even if they are bogus. We definitely need a dose of H+. A world with fewer idiots would be a big step forward. Then we would only have to deal with greed, instead of the deadly greed and stupidity combo


There was a recent COMARE report about cancer clusters that showed that there are areas with increased levels of leukaemia - these are areas where nuclear facilities were considered, but *never built*

ah, hangon ...

link here


What has happened after Scotland's part core meltdown in 64. I was reminded of that when looking up Radiation hormesis. Dr. teller said "a little Radiation is good for you." This was founded on studies done by the US Atomic Energy Commission and others. Everything about the lives of everything from worms to chimps after radiation is known
All we hear is the anti-bomb legend over and over. The best on Radiation hormesis was in Wikipedi. It has real facts in it. I think, that's not always true in Wikipedi. And all the real data shows the "any amount will kill you" is just plan wrong. In fact as long as you do not go too far it was good for all the species checked. The human point kill point is known more or less, not the get better point. If there is one is unknown. Maybe, just maybe the East German's had some info that could, that's could, be useful. My point was we don't know. The standards for human health are different from all other things. They seem to be set by fear of what newscasters will say tomorrow or lawyers next year. In America it is illegal to sell any amount of anything that's know to cause cancer. So it is illegal to sell homemade cakes if they were made with tap water. Tap water has chemicals and dead germs. Both are known to cause cancer. (less yelling here on this board.)


I got a little Radiation right. sorry. YES I HAVE BAD ADD.


Tap water has chemicals

So do "demineralised water" and "spring water". One of the main chemicals that they contain is dihydrogen oxide, which has been known to cause death in humans.


Not only that! Everyone exposed to it dies! And there's no known "safe" lower dose! Worse, it's addictive -- if you try to do with out it, you go into withdrawl and eventually die!

Ban dihydrogen monoxide now!


...and so, since water is a chemical, and so has a chemical formula, and water is safe, and chemicals with very complicated structures can't do more complicated things, no-one should ever worry about any chemical, ever.


Ok. my bad. But not just water, tap water. Most tap water here has some Chlorine still in it. Even if you can't taste it, it can be detected. And the law says that's all that's needed. The law is old and was dumb then. But ever once in a while someone tries to rally the fearful with run to a camera over it. You know,"think of the children." What has happened after Scotland's part core meltdown in 64? Nothing much I think?


My city's tap water comes from a large lake and then treatment center which uses sodium hypoclorite (bleach), ammonia, orthophosphate, and fluoride to clean it up.


A 12% solution of sodium hypoclorite is widely used in waterworks for the chlorination of water. The AMA says that is a cancer maker. My water often smells like a pool. I filter it now. It tastes better if nothing else.


You wouldn't want to drink 12% sodium hypochlorite solution -- not unless you want serious oesophageal burns, it's probably a very painful way to die!

But by the time it gets to you from the water works it's diluted down to parts per million: enough to suppress bacterial growth but not enough to have much of an effect on you. And compared to the alternative (cholera and friends) it's a definite improvement.


It might make a bit of a difference to bread making to filter the water.

As you state, the amount added is designed to be enough to prevent growth in the water supply - where there ought be pretty well no nutrients present - and no more. In a dough, I'd expect that the amount of nutrient will be enough to overcome that as far as the yeasts (or lactobacillus bacteria in the case of a sourdough) are concerned.

(If it's killing a dough, then it's probably somewhat higher than necessary.)


I don't actually know how my local water treatment facility treats for bacteria. However, I do bake my own bread, and the issue I get is more usually too much rise that not enough.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 7, 2011 6:50 PM.

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