Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Plume Check

Photo courtesy Flickr

The ultimate housekeeping issue has been upon us now for weeks, radioactive dust. If I stop cleaning right now and nothing disturbs the property, in a couple of thousand years an archaeologist can come along and pinpoint the date. I suppose that means that someone with the right equipment can catch me procrastinating even now.


Evaluating nuclear housekeeping issues is tricky business: one hopes to remain rational while respecting the terrible power of this new technology. World War Three, I maintain, already happened, but nobody heard the bang. The atmospheric testing of the Fifties distributed glow-in-the-dark toxins just as pervasively as the delivery systems before which we cowered.


Soviet warheads landed in Texas, but they showed up on their way to being dismantled. My friendly local physicist said the unrecognized hero of the Cold War was the guy who sat beneath tons of gravel defusing the nukes. If something went wrong, the gravel would damp both him and the mushroom cloud.


A casual surf of Pacific weather patterns last week turned up the comment that the minimal radiation we’re finding here is characteristic of steam emissions rather than a Chernobyl-style tuna melt.


I’d never blow off concerns about fallout, but I’d just as soon keep apprehension at bay so I can deal with it. My grapevine suggests wearing a waterproof rain hat when trouble’s drifting in this direction, and I’ve noticed the local hipsters suddenly are sporting umbrellas.


Not to sound overconfident, but whatever the schmutz I’m coping with, HEPA filters and high-tech cleaning cloths will make short work of it. Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bum and the great poet of the environment said Hiroshima’s OK and you can get great noodles there.


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