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posted by cmn32480 on Monday February 15 2016, @12:07AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the why-are-we-glowing-green dept.

Many are going to ask, "What's so weird about this one corner?" and I'm here to answer.

The end of Irving Avenue, where it meets Moffat Street, in Ridgewood, Queens, is the most radioactive spot in the entire state of New York, and would be the northeast's if not for NJ's McGuire Air Force Base in Burlington County (called "the most contaminated base" in 2007 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency).

In 1918, chemical engineer Alcan Hirsch, and his brother, mining chief Marx Hirsch, opened a chemical plant where today sits most of the businesses on Irving Ave's north side. In 1920, they christen it Hirsch Laboratories, and later added the mining company Molybdenum Corporation (aka Molycorp). The Hirsch brothers sold the lab in 1923 to Harry Wolff and Max Alport, who renamed it Wolff-Alport Chemical Company, but continued their mining operations, and supplied W-A Chemical with the rare-earth metals needed to produce a huge list of products.
The plant processed Monazite sand, which, when treated with Sulfuric Acid, separates into the rare-earth Sodium Sulfate, but also the radioactive waste known as Thorium Pyrophosphate.
It wasn't till the United States' nuclear weapons program in 1942, known as the Manhattan Project, that Thorium became useful. Until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission began to purchase the fertile heavy element from Wolff-Alport, and for the full 20-years prior, the Thorium waste was simply dumped into the area's sewers.

"Thorium waste dumped into the area's sewers." Amazing.


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Removing Heavy Metals with Banana Tree Biomass 28 comments

Heavy metals contaminate ground and surface waters from a variety of sources such as industrial effluent or fertilizers or pesticide applications. Cadmium and lead are the most common and toxic metals found in aqueous environments. They are persistent, they migrate, they accumulate in biological tissues, and they are carcinogenic. Removing these metals effectively and cheaply has been a big environmental challenge. There are a number of approaches to remove them including reverse osmosis, ion-exchange, chemical precipitation, coagulation, electrochemical treatment, and physical adsorption. Of these, adsorption is seen as very promising due to it being cost-effective, widely available, and easy to implement. There are a wide variety of adsorbent materials from the mundane (activated carbon, diatomaceous earth, polymers, etc.) to the exotic (carbon nanotubes and graphene oxide), but biochar has shown to be very efficient and cost-effective.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @12:48AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @12:48AM (#304395)

    You can't dump your shit, not in my sewers! China is where all the dirty shit goes! Merican sewers are only for clean shit!

    Huh. Now why the fuck is China making all our nice things for us? Them yellows be takin our jerbs!!

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Whoever on Monday February 15 2016, @12:52AM

    by Whoever (4524) on Monday February 15 2016, @12:52AM (#304397) Journal

    Simply normal business practice for many businesses: externalise your costs. Make the taxpayer pay for clean up of the mess that your business creates.

    It's possible because of 2 reasons:
    1. Lack of appropriate regulations
    2. Where regulations exist, starve the regulatory authority of funds required to actually implement and manage the regulations.

    The whole push for "lower taxes" -- that's what it is all about: wealthy people don't want to be responsible for the messes that they create.

    Another thought along the same lines: If you had a business where you knew that you could hire a bunch of new employees and each one would bring in a profit of many times their total cost of employment, you would do it, wouldn't you? So why do people oppose hiring more auditors at the IRS? THis isn't "small government", it's "crippled government".

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @01:02AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @01:02AM (#304398)

      I see you tried to emulate their practice by dumping your textual waste into the comment section.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by PartTimeZombie on Monday February 15 2016, @02:44AM

      by PartTimeZombie (4827) on Monday February 15 2016, @02:44AM (#304424)

      This is correct, and the reason it works so well is because the political system is for sale.

    • (Score: 2) by legont on Monday February 15 2016, @03:33AM

      by legont (4179) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:33AM (#304443)

      Actually many mining companies are avoiding regulations by simply going bankrupt after authorities pressure becomes an issue. They are distributing all the profit as soon as possible in an anticipation of the bust. The only way to implement any responsibility is by going after owners, including former owners and bankers. Yes, including stock holders, pension funds and eventually you and I. This is of course true for any business, just not that obvious.

      This particular garage is the same Molycop with shares in $70's thanks to Goldman, which is now in single cents.
      https://www.google.com/search?q=molycorp+chart&gws_rd=ssl [google.com]

      --
      "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
      • (Score: 2) by Whoever on Monday February 15 2016, @04:55AM

        by Whoever (4524) on Monday February 15 2016, @04:55AM (#304472) Journal

        Actually many mining companies are avoiding regulations by simply going bankrupt after authorities pressure becomes an issue.

        If there were effective regulation, if would prevent pollution before the mining companies started operating and certainly before any profits are distributed.

        The fact that a business that requires a long time to establish and is fixed in place can pollute, distribute profit to shareholders and then shut down before any effective regulatory action shows just how broken the regulatory system is in extractive industries.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Monday February 15 2016, @02:33PM

      by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Monday February 15 2016, @02:33PM (#304654) Homepage Journal

      One of the debaters claimed that eliminating ALL regulations would raise the income of ALL americans by more than $20,000.

      What's the cost of the cancer from the thorium dumping?

      --
      Yes I Have No Bananas. [gofundme.com]
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by PinkyGigglebrain on Monday February 15 2016, @02:23AM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Monday February 15 2016, @02:23AM (#304418)

    You can't judge the actions of someone in the 1930-40 by today's knowledge. Back then other than a hand full of scientists most people had NO FUCKING CLUE about Thorium being in anyway dangerous, it was just a waste product they had to get rid of. There were no regulations, no laws, nothing. So they did what everyone else was doing, and had been doing since before human history began and just threw it away in the most convenient way.

    It is so easy to look back and say "what a bunch of idiots", but when you do remember that your descendants will look back at you some day and say the same thing.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Monday February 15 2016, @02:55AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday February 15 2016, @02:55AM (#304431)

      I agree... mostly. The interesting time to be in is when people are relatively certain that serious harm is being done, but formal regulation isn't in place yet. Do you server your shareholders and continue to operate for maximum profit, or do your shirk your fiscal responsibilities in favor of "doing the right thing for the good of mankind."

      We seem to face more and more of these questions lately.

      --
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      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday February 15 2016, @02:13PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 15 2016, @02:13PM (#304646) Journal

        We seem to face more and more of these questions lately.

        I think we do merely because outrage is a business model these days. We're past most of that in the developed world.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 16 2016, @03:02AM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 16 2016, @03:02AM (#305026)

          We seem to face more and more of these questions lately.

          I think we do merely because outrage is a business model these days. We're past most of that in the developed world.

          I think it's just a sign of the rate of progress. In the 1800s, we (mankind) weren't as capable of anything, so we screwed up less - sure, nasty cesspool cities, killing most of the whales, various forms of slave labor, the 1800s were no picnic, but most problems were slow to appear (and disappear.)

          Today, we can create whole new classes of problems in a matter of months.

          --
          Україна не входить до складу Росії.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 16 2016, @02:21PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 16 2016, @02:21PM (#305179) Journal

            Today, we can create whole new classes of problems in a matter of months.

            I noticed that one can merely write a book and create whole new classes of problems. A recent example is the sudden whining over corporate personhood. There's also the microaggression fad which wasn't even a thing before about 2007 or so.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday February 16 2016, @08:42PM

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday February 16 2016, @08:42PM (#305379)

              Today, we can create whole new classes of problems in a matter of months.

              I noticed that one can merely write a book and create whole new classes of problems. A recent example is the sudden whining over corporate personhood. There's also the microaggression fad which wasn't even a thing before about 2007 or so.

              Meta-problems, social structure, appropriate behavior, whiners, I suspect these have been around since the hunter-gatherers learned to speak and travel in groups of more than 5 people for more than a week at a time.

              There are actual, novel existential problems that have presented themselves in the last 100 years or so:

              * Near extinction by global war (conventional style)
              * Near extinction by global epidemic (made possible by rapid global transport, brought to you in no small part by global war)
              * Actual extinction by global thermonuclear war
              * Collapse of entire ocean ecosystems, extinction of major fish stocks
              * Measurable rise of sea level, with possibility for dramatic acceleration within decades
              * Interconnectivity and acceleration of global economy making the whole system subject to bubble and crash events
              * Infrastructure dependency upon information systems that may be one day taken over by hostile AI

              These things (and many more) were relatively unthinkable before 1900. They pulled off continental scale genocide with biowarfare in the 1600-1800s, but it never seemed conceivable that the whole species could go down before the Spanish Flu following WWI.

              These are just the big problems, there are plenty of new problems more important than whether or not people's feelings are getting hurt cropping up all the time.

              Of course, if you follow the highly enlightened Dalai Lama, you might rate people's feelings as equally or more important than most non-lethal concerns.

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              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday February 17 2016, @09:09AM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 17 2016, @09:09AM (#305679) Journal

                * Actual extinction by global thermonuclear war

                This is the actual new one. The first two already existed (such as your discussion of continental-scale biowarfare, given that there are only seven continents) and global warfare was a thing for a few centuries (such as the conflicts between the UK and France prior to the Revolutionary War).

                The three after nuclear war aren't existential threats and the last isn't a threat at all.

                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 17 2016, @02:18PM

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 17 2016, @02:18PM (#305777)

                  Depends on how histironic you want to get... Global war between UK and France was kind of a pathetic joke, nobody was getting wiped out unless they were on a ship that went down, and even then there were usually survivors taken prisoner.

                  Starting around WWII, it was seeming conceivable that the Axis powers might actually roll over the entire globe and they were much closer to genocide by bombs, bullets, gas and whatever else they could come up with.

                  As for the last one, given total control of our electronic dependent infrastructure, a nefarious agent could probably kill over 50% of large city dwellers within a month. Combine cyber attacks with a few dozen well coordinated "two guys, and a pickup truck full of hand-grenades" style attacks on vulnerable infrastructure (which self-driving vehicles are already capable of) and lots of people are going to be dying of starvation, weather exposure and panic in a big hurry.

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                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 18 2016, @03:12PM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 18 2016, @03:12PM (#306345) Journal

                    Depends on how histironic you want to get... Global war between UK and France was kind of a pathetic joke, nobody was getting wiped out unless they were on a ship that went down, and even then there were usually survivors taken prisoner.

                    In the Seven Years War, somewhere around a million people died. Sure, it's light compared to the Second World War, the Mongolian invasions, or any of the Chinese grindfests, but that's still a lot of people.

                    As for the last one, given total control of our electronic dependent infrastructure, a nefarious agent could probably kill over 50% of large city dwellers within a month.

                    I don't buy that. Most infrastructure is just too unreliable and the electronics too buggy to depend on electronics alone. Sure, at some point, I see overdependency on automated systems becoming a problem, but it hasn't arrived yet.

                    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday February 18 2016, @04:04PM

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday February 18 2016, @04:04PM (#306375)

                      The electronic controls on the water supply to New York (and most other major cities) can be (with sufficient remote access and skill/knowledge of the system) manipulated to effectively destroy and meaningful volume of potable water delivery to the city. How long will people get by on boil water orders, when the electricity and gas are also out? Screw up the trains, flood the tunnels, blow some bridges, and you've got millions of people justifiably hyper-panicked that they're going to have to drink from the Hudson River or die, food stocks in the city run out in just over 24 hours without resupply from trucks (New York is especially bad on this front, but many other cities are similarly short on food warehousing.)

                      Commercial air, ship and lately now train transport is almost entire dependent on the computational infrastructure to operate at anything approaching normal volumes. Once we're all transitioned into these self-driving cars, SkyNet will have an easy game of shutting us down.

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                      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 18 2016, @04:14PM

                        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 18 2016, @04:14PM (#306377) Journal

                        The electronic controls on the water supply to New York (and most other major cities) can be (with sufficient remote access and skill/knowledge of the system) manipulated to effectively destroy and meaningful volume of potable water delivery to the city. How long will people get by on boil water orders, when the electricity and gas are also out?

                        Longer than it'll take for the utilities to route around the damage.

                        Commercial air, ship and lately now train transport is almost entire dependent on the computational infrastructure to operate at anything approaching normal volumes.

                        Sorry, I don't buy that. They aren't that hard computationally.

                        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday February 18 2016, @05:12PM

                          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday February 18 2016, @05:12PM (#306415)

                          Have you ever seen a major force-main break? Happened due to metal fatigue in Miami once, geyser shot up out of the street under a parked truck and turned it over, it wasn't repaired for weeks. Poor choices of valve settings can rupture pipes, often in places inconvenient to repair or reroute around. Some, non-potable, service could be restored quickly, but not enough to supply most buildings. A coordinated attack against major utilities and transport modes would take much longer to repair than a simple single point failure, think: Hurricane Sandy, but with all telephones and internet down nationwide - and if SkyNet is strategic with its zero day strike, it won't happen in a single city, it will go off everywhere all at once, probably at 5AM GMT.

                          If you cut air traffic rates by a factor of about 5, they might get by with "see and be seen" at a level of safety pilots are willing to accept. Current 30 second take off and landing intervals at major airports can't be handled by guys pushing little chits around on a map - they need their systems to ID the radar blips - hell, the radar itself is highly computerized by now, I doubt you'd be able to get a meaningful radar picture if the computer controlling it were compromised.

                          Trains have only recently (10 years) gone seriously computer controlled, the busier corridors would suffer carrying capacity without digital signalling, but not much on the lighter used lines. And ships can be manually steered into port, but no small amount of chaos (and thus, loss of throughput capacity) will ensue when they try to figure out where all those containers are supposed to route to without their digital systems.

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                          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 18 2016, @09:33PM

                            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 18 2016, @09:33PM (#306570) Journal

                            Have you ever seen a major force-main break?

                            Ok, how do you cause that with electronics? Without extensive physical damage, you're running these systems manually and that's just not that hard.

                            A coordinated attack against major utilities and transport modes would take much longer to repair than a simple single point failure, think: Hurricane Sandy, but with all telephones and internet down nationwide - and if SkyNet is strategic with its zero day strike, it won't happen in a single city, it will go off everywhere all at once, probably at 5AM GMT.

                            So you think it might take 12 hours to fix instead of 4 hours?

                            If you cut air traffic rates by a factor of about 5, they might get by with "see and be seen" at a level of safety pilots are willing to accept.

                            Sounds good enough then especially once they increase that rate with experience in doing it that way. Your bitty plane just won't land at JFK.

                            And ships can be manually steered into port, but no small amount of chaos (and thus, loss of throughput capacity) will ensue when they try to figure out where all those containers are supposed to route to without their digital systems.

                            Again, which is a short term thing. Someone will just have to figure out what bar codes mean.

                            The thing here is how do you manage to build up such a vulnerable system without have the pieces of that system prematurely self-destructing? My view is that there are already a huge host of failures testing this infrastructure and components right now. Any vulnerability that can cause a water main break in the hands of a sophisticated, electronically-based foe, can be triggered by more mundane means. And eventually they either fix the vulnerability or get used to the breaking down with alternate means of working around that problem.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Gravis on Monday February 15 2016, @03:44AM

      by Gravis (4596) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:44AM (#304449)

      You can't judge the actions of someone in the 1930-40 by today's knowledge.

      true.

      Back then other than a hand full of scientists most people had NO FUCKING CLUE about Thorium being in anyway dangerous,

      false.

      "Thorium was discovered to be radioactive by Gerhard Schmidt in 1898 – the first element after uranium to be identified as such."

      The Radium Girls [wikipedia.org] were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint at the United States Radium factory in Orange, New Jersey, around 1917. The women, who had been told the paint was harmless, ingested deadly amounts of radium by licking their paintbrushes to give them a fine point; some also painted their fingernails and teeth with the glowing substance.

      it was understood that radiation was dangerous by a lot more than scientists.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by PinkyGigglebrain on Monday February 15 2016, @06:21AM

        by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Monday February 15 2016, @06:21AM (#304489)

        Schmidt was a scientist, and I said "most people", as in the majority of the population. It still wasn't common knowledge that radiation was dangerous, the majority of people didn't know about Radium and the other actinides being radioactive much less dangerous. As you even pointed out people were being told that Radium wasn't dangerous, even though those in upper management knew enough to protect themselves https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium#Luminescent_paint [wikipedia.org], the resulting law suits by the "Radium Girls" changed how the public at large perceived radiation, they learned it was dangerous. But that wasn't until the mid to late 1920s, before then it is as I said, most people didn't know the dangers.
         
        And even after the Radium Girls there were no regulations or laws about the disposal of radioactive materials, so people just flushed it down the drains. Their actions may have been irresponsible, idiotic and outright illegal by today's standards but back then it was a different world and those being ordered to dump the stuff didn't know any better.

        --
        "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
        • (Score: 2) by Gravis on Monday February 15 2016, @01:27PM

          by Gravis (4596) on Monday February 15 2016, @01:27PM (#304619)

          Schmidt was a scientist, and I said "most people", as in the majority of the population.

          sure... but your average joe has no interest in Thorium.

          And even after the Radium Girls there were no regulations or laws about the disposal of radioactive materials, so people just flushed it down the drains. Their actions may have been irresponsible, idiotic and outright illegal by today's standards but back then it was a different world and those being ordered to dump the stuff didn't know any better.

          i don't blame the people who dumped it, i blame the people giving the orders to dump it.

      • (Score: 2) by gnuman on Monday February 15 2016, @04:30PM

        by gnuman (5013) on Monday February 15 2016, @04:30PM (#304721)

        false. ... it was understood that radiation was dangerous by a lot more than scientists.

        False on *you*.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe-fitting_fluoroscope [wikipedia.org]
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quackery_involving_radioactive_substances [wikipedia.org]

        Secondly, your comments trying to equate Radium with Thorium are asinine and shows you do not know what you are talking about. Radium is a hot radionuclei, that comes from decay chains. Thorium, Uranium and Potassium-40 are all cold radionuclei and are premordial. Might as well start raging about evils of mining potash.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primordial_nuclide [wikipedia.org]

        Dumping stuff that was dug up was a very common method of disposal, and still is today. Thorium and Uranium are everywhere (any soil with any clay?), and they do not generally pose any risk to people. Heck, TFA is extremely short on details and very broad on unless numbers,

        While a single X-ray may subject someone to 10 millirem of radiation, a worker at Los Primos is exposed to about 300 millirem per year (100 per year is deemed the highest "safe" dose).

        So if 10 xrays are max before "unsafe", someone should tell that to all the CT scanners that take HUNDREDS of xrays every time they run a scan. Heck, the "safe" dosage is about 100mSv/yr, or about 10,000 milirems since 1 milirem == 0.01mSv, so 300 milirem is 3mSv... considering that natural background radiation is in range of 2-5 mSv, and in some areas it is well over 50mSv and people don't die from any other diseases than anywhere else.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation [wikipedia.org]

        "Occupational safe exposure limit" != "Safe dose".

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @03:51AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @03:51AM (#304452)

      In 1911 Hirsch established his own business, Hirsch Laboratory, in New York, to do consulting for industrial corporations and the governments of Japan and the Soviet Union...

      Hirsch's book Industrialized Russia (1934) focused on the development of heavy chemical industry in the Soviet Union and the importance of United States diplomatic recognition. He was esteemed in the USSR as a founder of the Soviet heavy chemical industry.

      https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhi51 [tshaonline.org]

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Monday February 15 2016, @12:33PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 15 2016, @12:33PM (#304595)

      There was a generational shift many decades ago from an "ashes to ashes dust to dust" biblical perspective where it came from mother nature so give it back, perhaps with some dilution, was seen as OK. Until you get into serious scary organics or concentrated radioactives, this is a reasonable and realistic outlook on life, it is basically "green" compost piling but with chemicals instead of plant waste. Its only extremely recently that we're able to concentrate nasty stuff to a level that's hazardous on a wide scale so that took generations to break out of the old cultural mode.

      The culture of chemists in 1800 would tolerate behavior leading to something like the Union Carbide disaster, mostly because the technology and engineering of the time made a disaster like that inherently impossible. About the worst you could do in the really old days was vaporize mercury, if you were incredibly rich enough to afford enough mercury to poison yourself.

      Maybe likewise, due to plant virii and bacterial contamination or genetic contamination of patented species or gradual concentration of heavy metals or who knows what else, the idea of composting plant waste and then dumping the plant waste on food plants will be considered insane in 50 years, just like dumping chemical waste wasn't a big deal back when chemical waste "recently" was not dangerous.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Hartree on Monday February 15 2016, @02:44AM

    by Hartree (195) on Monday February 15 2016, @02:44AM (#304425)

    Since when is thorium particularly dangerous? It's used to alloy with tungsten for filaments and electrodes and used in gasoline lantern mantles.

    The daughter products are gamma emitters, but the rate of decay of natural thorium is so low you don't have much of them at a given time.

    I'm sure it raised the background level a bit, but I really doubt this is a major health concern. Even for cancer, the car exhaust you'd breathe in New York would likely be more dangerous.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday February 15 2016, @02:51AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday February 15 2016, @02:51AM (#304429)

      Car exhaust is mostly combinations of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen... chemically nasty, but not elementally so.

      Thorium isn't all that bad (as compared to Uranium - Radium - Radon - Polonium), but still it's a different kind of threat than something like Nitric Oxide or Carbon Monoxide.

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      • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Monday February 15 2016, @03:28AM

        by Hartree (195) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:28AM (#304440)

        They said they observed 300 mRem/yr (3 mSv/yr). That's a bit less than twice the background for Denver if you excluding radon (1.8 MSv). About the same if you include radon which is probably worse as you breathe it and it's in close contact with the lung tissue.

        So, it's pretty low as far as exposures. Sounds like they largely told people not to sleep there. If you're only there 8 hours a day, it's equal to the 100 mRem recommended maximum dose for the general public.

        Frankly, even if I worked there, I'd be a lot more worried about the exposure to the degreasing solvents that a car repair uses.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday February 15 2016, @03:40AM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:40AM (#304447)

          If I worked in Queens, I'd be more worried about getting mugged on the 7 train than any radiation hooey.

          Article said "most radioactive spot in New York," I'm sure there are spots in Colorado that were worse before Columbus arrived in America.

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        • (Score: 3, Informative) by fnj on Monday February 15 2016, @05:24AM

          by fnj (1654) on Monday February 15 2016, @05:24AM (#304476)

          1.8 MSv

          1.8 MEGAsieverts? That's a fuck ton of sieverts! I bet you mean mSv (millisieverts). You also left off the important rate part (per year I imagine).

          • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Monday February 15 2016, @05:48AM

            by Hartree (195) on Monday February 15 2016, @05:48AM (#304479)

            Yeah, I apparently had a typing spasm in that last one. It's the same as the others, mSv/yr.

    • (Score: 2) by driverless on Monday February 15 2016, @03:20AM

      by driverless (4770) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:20AM (#304437)

      It's used to alloy with tungsten for filaments and electrodes

      In very low amounts, typically WT20 which is 2% thorium, embedded in tungsten where it's unlikely to get out into the environment.

      used in gasoline lantern mantles

      Again, the quantities are miniscule, and thorium use is being phased out.

      The overall concern here isn't that thorium is present, it's how its distributed throughout the environment. You can carry thoriated welding rods around in your pocket all day long without being exposed to significant risk, but if you were to grind or cut them and breathe the dust, that's a completely different issue. It seems the concern here is both the concentration of thorium (there's an awful lot there) and how it's present in the environment.

      • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Monday February 15 2016, @03:36AM

        by Hartree (195) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:36AM (#304444)

        Well, my point is the NY EPA is usually very conservative when dealing with radioactive hazards, and they haven't put more thorough restrictions in place. They've got to know about it given that there's Federal EPA monitoring of the place.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @03:43AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @03:43AM (#304448)

        Mushrooms in the park next to it must be wonderful.

        • (Score: 2) by driverless on Monday February 15 2016, @04:04AM

          by driverless (4770) on Monday February 15 2016, @04:04AM (#304459)

          Had a long conversation with a dog that was born there a few days ago. He said the extra two legs were useful to get away from other dogs, but I found his tentacles a bit disturbing.

          • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Monday February 15 2016, @06:01AM

            by Hartree (195) on Monday February 15 2016, @06:01AM (#304485)

            And here I thought Google's Deep Dream project was just in silico, not in vivo.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @10:23AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @10:23AM (#304546)

        In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended that thorium lamp mantles be replaced with yttrium mantles, because of thorium's slight radioactivity.

        https://web.archive.org/web/20071014211034/http://arpansa.gov.au/RadiationProtection/Factsheets/is_lantern.cfm [archive.org]

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Beryllium Sphere (r) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:26AM

      by Beryllium Sphere (r) (5062) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:26AM (#304439)

      Not only that, but sodium sulfate is not a rare earth.

      Here's another way to see how small the radiation hazard is. Imagine sitting next to a thorium atom. After fourteen and a half billion years, there'd be even odds that it hadn't emitted any radiation yet. If it had, it would have been something that could be blocked by a sheet of paper.

      If anyone reflexively say "But it's radiation!", go to https://xkcd.com/radiation/ [xkcd.com] and meditate on how many orders of magnitude lie between being detectable and having health effects.

      • (Score: 2) by kurenai.tsubasa on Monday February 15 2016, @03:49AM

        by kurenai.tsubasa (5227) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:49AM (#304451) Journal

        Imagine sitting next to a thorium atom…. If it had, it would have been something that could be blocked by a sheet of paper.

        I don't know, that sheet of paper looks pretty thick and complex from next to my thorium atom! All those carbon compounds, endlessly jittering like junebugs, electron clouds like indecipherable whirlwinds bonding molecules together, and I can't even see any of the nuclei of any of these atoms near me even if I put on my baryon-vision goggles and squint!

        Hold on, I think an anti-Tsubasa is approaching.

        *annihilates with the anti-Tsubasa in an explosion of photons*

        !FTW

        .repap fo teehs a yb dekcolb eb dluoc taht gnihtemos neeb evah dluow ti ,dah ti fI .…mota muiroht a ot txen gnittis enigamI

        Imagine sitting next to a thorium atom…. If it had, it would have been something that could be blocked by a sheet of paper.

        Wait, how'd I get here, and where is that anti-Tsubasa that just formed when I popped out of the quantum vacuum to hit reply going? And why is it walking backwards?!

        This world is very confusing. I prefer the macro scale where the XKCD link applies.

        (Alice in Quantumland is definitely worth a read. Either that or the sleep meds are starting to take effect. Better go off to count quantum sheep. 1… 2… 5… 3… huh? Oh, the other two were virtual sheep.)

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @10:37AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @10:37AM (#304550)

        Thorium 232, the most common isotope of thorium, is an alpha emitter. Alpha particles can indeed be blocked by a sheet of paper. However, if they originate within our bodies they can be harmful, as the energy is deposited in our cells. You're right about the 14-billion-year half-life, but inhaling or ingesting thorium is still not a great idea.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @05:01PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @05:01PM (#304745)

      Since when is thorium particularly dangerous? It's used to alloy with tungsten for filaments and electrodes and used in gasoline lantern mantles.

      The daughter products are gamma emitters, but the rate of decay of natural thorium is so low you don't have much of them at a given time.

      TA is anti-thorium propaganda. Thorium is still currently a waste product, still discarded by coal miners. If all the cities adopted safe Thorium reactors for energy production, then we would have an energy independent world. We would also

      So, just like Fukushima was used as scaremongering propaganda against the cold war era nuclear plants, thorium reactors must also get their fair share of scaremongering. You see, true energy independence frees the people from another level of control by the nation-states and the power producers. It eliminates such a huge amount of political clout, that we are not to have safe clean thorium nuclear energy, that actually eats nuclear waste and can not have a "melt down" or "runaway" reaction. Gets too hot, stops reacting. Loses power? Cold salt plug melts, drains itself into an underground vessel rather than leaking into the environment.

      A demand for energy produced by thorium would also allow us to reopen US rare earth mines -- which, as TFA points out, are otherwise littered with thorium and hamper the mining with prohibitive "environmental" regulations (ignoring that coal mining releases more radioactivity into the environment than rare earth mining, and also that thorium reactors would vastly reduce the environmental impact). There is a concerted effort on every side to attack cleaner nuclear energy, and especially thorium. The new nuclear reactors, e.g. on submarines, are nothing like the cold war era monsters.

      Would you like to know more? [youtube.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @05:09PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @05:09PM (#304754)

        TA

        *TFA

        Sorry for any typos, I have no time to proofread. My code is almost done compiling.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by zeigerpuppy on Monday February 15 2016, @03:48AM

    by zeigerpuppy (1298) on Monday February 15 2016, @03:48AM (#304450)

    Sofium sulfate is definitely not a rare earth element...
    It's not even an element!

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @07:36AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @07:36AM (#304507)

    "Many are going to ask,"
    clickbait.

  • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Monday February 15 2016, @08:16AM

    by wonkey_monkey (279) on Monday February 15 2016, @08:16AM (#304515) Homepage

    Many are going to ask, "What's so weird about this one corner?"

    No they aren't, because they'll have already seen the headline.

    --
    systemd is Roko's Basilisk
  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @05:36PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 15 2016, @05:36PM (#304778)

    Thorium FUD is considered harmful. Forbidding thorium from mining it's the reason why we don't have clean energy production from wind, water, solar, etc. (these all require rare earth materials, which are directly correlated to thorium concentrations). Having to avoid thorium is also why there are little to no rare earth mines in the USA, which is why our manufacturing is gone overseas to where mining is allowed -- and under far less eco-responsible mining outfits in China. Currently mining sites are dumping this radioactive material into ponds and re-burring it to leach into topsoils, because there is no market for it -- because other energy producers do not want us to create safer thorium reactors. Thorium is the biggest threat to coal and oil. Here's a video explaining the thorium issue, and why we don't make anything, not even smartphones, in the USA anymore. [youtube.com]

    There is a huge campaign against thorium to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, as exposed in Hillary Clinton's emails, the federal government owned lands are to be promised to foreign investors and current bills will allowing this prohibit surrounding citizens from having any form of redress against the environmental concerns. (see also: Hammond Ranch issue, they're right in the middle of a huge swath of federal land that Hillary wants to give mineral rights over to Russia)

    I won't even go into the amount of energy wasted shipping of products across the seas that we could be making locally if not for thorium prohibition.

    If you actually care about environmental pollution and clean energy, then the thorium FUD has to go.