Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Planning For Our Bomb Shelter

Finally! Almost home.

We entered Idaho and saw tons of signs for a "Nuclear Power Plant Historic Site." Couldn't resist the opportunity to get educated (for free, too!), after all the crap that's been going on with Fukushima and stuff.

This plant still had light levels of radiation! I was hoping to get an amazing photo in a hazmat suit, but just plain old shoes protected you enough from the radioactive floor. Boo.

This plant operated in the 50s, hence the AWESOME decor.

We learned SO much about nuclear fission and the whole atomic process, nuclear waste, half-lifes of uranium and plutonium, how it's mined, etc. Seriously. I felt pretty smart after the tour. Also, Mike and I were the only 2 people on the tour, so we got lots of attention and I got to be a dork and ask tons of questions without people rolling their eyes at me. 

the control room

Probably the most interesting thing we learned had to do with the word "scram," as in, "Scram, kids, you're bothering me!" 

The word stands for Safety Control Rod Axe Man. Basically, it's a dude whose job is to cut a rope that holds a cadmium rod suspended over the nuclear reactor. 

If a reactor goes berserk, the rod falls into the chamber and absorbs all the energy that the plant is generating. So this guy stands there, all day, with an axe, ready to cut a rope. 

The SCRAM button in these old school nuclear plants alerts the dude. Also everyone would probably run out of the building, hence the evolved meaning of "scramming."

Damn men and their superiority complex!

The part of the tour that sort of sucked was the wall where everyone signed their name (in the frame above). This was to mark the day they finally produced power, in 1951. They only allowed men to sign the wall. Even the freaking janitor signed his name (and badly, I might add). But all the women who worked there? Nope. The plaque on the wall on the right came in 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson made the place a historic landmark, and they felt it was finally time to honor the women...but they STILL weren't allowed to sign the wall, because it was a historic artifact and had to be kept as such. SO LAME. It made me think about how far women have come - the 50s were not that long ago!

4 feet of lead lined concrete, protecting the cooling chamber.

For any of you doomsday preppers out there, we learned that 4 feet of concrete, minimum (ideally lined with lead), will keep you safe from nuclear radiation. So, put that on your list for your bunker! 

Mike might have a future with robotics!

At the end of our private tour, we got a chance to try out the mechanical arms they used to manipulate radioactive stuff inside the chambers. Mike was amazing at it and actually placed all the little shapes properly into the puzzle. He's going to be just fine when he gets his robot arms in 2050.

To be honest, I think museums like this should be a must for kids. It gives you a lot of nuclear fission info in a palatable way. Now that I understand it, I can see how it is definitely a clean - although scary and not without it's own problems - alternative to burning fossil fuels. I mean, burning coal, oil, and gas is just ridiculous. Also, everyone should be aware of what's in their own backyard. Did you know Idaho has a huge above ground nuclear waste dump? They don't advertise that stuff, but if I lived in Idaho, I'd for sure want to know about it.

There are a surprising number of free museums off American highways - the Lakota Museum we went to, for one, and lots of randoms like a Homesteading Museum, Prairie Dog Museum, Museum of Woodcarving (in Jackson Hole)...

I really encourage you to stop in one and check it out. They're pretty fun, and woodcarving could come in handy during the zombie apocalypse!