Tough Job: Radioactive Rabbit Dropping Hunter

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In central Washington near the Hanford nuclear production complex, a radioactive rabbit trapped by workers sent health department officials scurrying into the field to search for radioactive rabbit turd. They needed to make sure that any cesium-doped droppings wouldn't reach areas into which people might wander.

The beginning of a Denis Johnson-Don DeLillo collaboration? No, it actually happened yesterday:

Department of Health workers were using handheld instruments to search for radioactive droppings on Thursday, looking for "polite rabbits," Fordham said.

Rabbit droppings are more likely to be found hidden under bushes than out in the open, such as on roads that the public can drive on north of Richland. The farthest droppings have been found from the 327 Building is about 100 yards to the south, which still is within an area closed to the public. Hanford has an extensive program to check for contaminated animals.

In 2009, 33 contaminated animals or animal materials such as droppings were found on the site. In Hanford's earlier years, contaminated animals were more common. Liquid waste with radioactive salts was discharged into the ground near central Hanford during the Cold War. Rabbits and other animals were attracted to the salts and spread radioactive droppings across as much as 13.7 square miles of sage-covered land before the waste sites were sealed to keep out animals in 1969.

Read the full story at Tri-City Herald.

Thanks to Steve Silberman for, as always, being all over the important news.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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