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There may be nothing truly more terrifying on planet earth than radiation, and all of the ways in which our modern world is using, and abusing, their discovery.

When the word nuclear comes up, in conversation or in print, you immediately think of one of two shapes:  Either the mushroom cloud, or the iconic parabolic cooling towers of a nuclear power plant.  This could be some sort of mental, Freudian word association test, like a Rorschach, one step removed from the current protocol.

Those who see the mushroom cloud may very well see the cup half empty, as opposed to half full.  That’s the beauty of splitting the atom:  You’ve made matter itself binary…it either is or it isn’t.  Half full, half empty.  Hiroshima, Homer Simpson.  Yin, Yang.  It’s all very cut and dry.

On the half-full, Hiroshima side of things, we have a story out of Texas, where a great deal of plutonium is missing…after a year of looking by the US government.

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The incident began when two employees from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory were tasked with traveling to the Lone Star State to obtain radioactive materials from a research lab.

“Their task was to ensure that the radioactive materials did not fall into the wrong hands on the way back to Idaho, where the government maintains a stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the military and others,” the CPI report states.

After stopping for the evening at a Marriott hotel near Highway 410, the pair noticed the following morning that their vehicle’s windows were smashed and that the sensitive items, left on the backseat, had disappeared.

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Of course, with such volatile materials simply out there, you would assume that our government would be able to quickly locate something of such massive importance.

You would be wrong, and that is absolutely terrifying.

In the months since, state and federal officials have been unable to locate the missing materials.

“No public announcement of the March 21 incident has been made by either the San Antonio police or by the FBI, which the police consulted by telephone,” the CPI says. “When asked, officials declined to say exactly how much plutonium and cesium were missing. But Idaho lab spokeswoman Sarah Neumann said the plutonium in particular wasn’t enough to be fashioned into a nuclear bomb.”

Monday’s story is one of many surrounding radioactive substances to go missing from U.S. government control over the past several years.

“Unlike civilian stocks, which are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and openly regulated—with reports of thefts or disappearances sent to an international agency in Vienna—military stocks tended by the Department of Energy are much less transparent,” the report notes.

If I were the government, I’d be on the lookout for either a VW mini bus full of angry Libyans, or a white haired weirdo with a shaggy dog and a scrappy young friend.

 

 

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