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Bruce Perens: The Day I Blundered Into the Nuclear Facility 181

Posted by samzenpus
from the did-you-remember-to-lock-the-door? dept.
Bruce Perens writes "I found myself alone in a room, in front of a deep square or rectangular pool of impressively clear, still water. There was a pile of material at the bottom of the pool, and a blue glow of Cherenkov radiation in the water around it. To this day, I can't explain how an unsupervised kid could ever have gotten in there."
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Bruce Perens: The Day I Blundered Into the Nuclear Facility

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @06:28PM (#41544257)

    This.

    Whoever submitted this is either Bruce himself, or some blog reading whore. Nothing more than a "me too" attention whoring. The editors should be ashamed of themselves.

  • So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @06:35PM (#41544329)
    I live about 4 miles from a reactor. You can walk in and look down at the reactor during business hours. They commonly take local school children on tours. Unless you're going to dive into the water and start trying to yank fuel rods out by hand I don't really see what you could do with it. I suppose you could drop a pipe bomb in there but I don't really think it would do much.
  • Re:The 60s and 70s (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @06:57PM (#41544497)

    Lots of universities had research reactors (a few still do). They had no more security than some bored grad students working in the outer lab. If it was an open house even they would have been too busy to look after every wandering kid.

    When I was in high school we did a tour of university's research reactor, and like you said, the only people there were a few grad students and an operator (or maybe he was a professor?) - no armed guards, no fancy security systems, we just had to sign in with the student at the front desk. We weren't allowed in the room that had the reactor pool,but we could see it (and the blue Cherenkov Radiation glow) through a large thick glassed window. They said that the water was sufficient to contain the radiation but they didn't want many people in the reactor room since any contaminants in the water could become radioactive.

    We were standing in the room that had the door to the reactor room, so I don't think it would have been hard for a kid to accidentally gain access to the reactor room if someone inadvertently left the door open or didn't pull it closed after they left the room.

    But at the time, the coolest thing in the building was the remote manipulator arms they used for working with radioactive materials. After playing with those arms, I decided I was going to have a career in nuclear science. Though somehow I ended up in IT instead.

  • Re:The 60s and 70s (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @07:06PM (#41544561)

    Back in 2006 I walked directly through Heathrow without ever being checked. Jetlagged all to hell I took a side door, dressed in a business suit and looking authoritative, zombied my way through a maze of corridors and past a desk of men staring intently at a monitor, before finding my way outside the airport.

    On a subsequent trip, confused about the flight, I asked a man with a submachine gun the route to my gate, went there immediately, got there before the security team, and sat down watching every other passenger being frisked and scanned. The security guard was even there, someone pointed me out and obviously asked him a question, he shook his head no.

    The more things change, eh?

  • Re:The 60s and 70s (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @08:22PM (#41545027)
    A lot of those research reactors have a lot less material in them than people picture when told it is a nuclear reactor. Some of them require considerable disassembly to remove material. Others would require major operations to actually get the material any distance away due to the radiation. In one case when asked "What if someone just swam down there and grabbed some of the material?" the response was "They would be dead before getting out the door with it." So if anything, the amount of security needed is based on their concern someone will damage equipment or do something stupid, not so much getting away with the radioactive material.
  • Re:The 60s and 70s (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @08:25PM (#41545041)

    I've got you beat: They let us walk THROUGH the reactor in either the 6th or 7th grade as part of one of those summer-school programs. It was on the local military base (not long before the glorious (Clinton? Bush?) era base closures happened. A town with 5+ bases, two of them AFBs, all closed and sold off to commercial interests...).

    Still, one of the most awesome memories of my early life.

  • Re:The 60s and 70s (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @09:18PM (#41545269)

    I used to live in Mountain View, CA. when I was a teen. A friend and I used to ride our bicycles out on the levies that abounded along the southern San Francisco Bay--commonly know as the "Baylands"--often following the wooden catwalks that stretched for miles over the water surfaces that the levies partitioned off. The top of these levies were used as security roads around the eastern side of Moffet Field and Nasa's Ames Research Center.

    We soon realized that as long as we bypassed a security check-point near the north end of the base, using the catwalks, that once we were beyond the security roads on the levee, nobody gave us a second glance. I guess they assumed we were military kids or something, because we were able to ride our bicycles right past the tarmac by going through an open gate in the security fence--only once did anyone say anything to us and that was to tell us that we were supposed to walk our bikes when we were inside the hangars. We spent many hours wandering around those hangars that summer. Ames had the neatest stuff--helicopters with wings, jets with VTO rotors, a helicopter with no windshield (mind you, this was the early 80's--I'd never heard of a "drone" before), models of every sort lined up for wind-tunnel testing, etc. We once went out there in the middle of a hot, summer night and watched a large jet take off (judging by the lights and noise) and barely caught sight of a totally silent aircraft follow it off the ground less then 3 seconds behind the first, this second aircraft only being visible by virtue of creating a silhouette against the brightly lit Bay-Area sky--otherwise it was totally silent and had zero lighting. Not sure why they'd be doing so, but it looked like they were towing another aircraft under cover of darkness. Pretty exciting, especially for a kid.

    I somehow don't think that one could stroll into that place as easily these days. Lucky we didn't get shot.

  • by damaki (997243) on Thursday October 04, 2012 @04:36AM (#41546797)
    My father use to work for the French national police force. It's a half police, half military police corp.
    One day, he visited a nuclear power plant for whatever security reason. With a group of people, he walked around one of these famous pool, then just clumsily fell in it. He was of course decontaminated as soon as I happened, and well, he still has no cancer decades after, even as a heavy smoker.
    Sadly, he did not get any superpower either, just a smart kid, years later ;)

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