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We’ve been watching the story for days now, though it’s far from making headline news. On February 14, 2014 radioactivity was detected in the open air above ground at our nation’s only deep geologic repository for nuclear waste, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southern New Mexico. We’ve written about WIPP several times on this blog, most recently during the production of our video project, Look Only at the Movement, for which we traveled the same Interstate highway routes that transuranic waste in our country travels — to WIPP.
What did make it into news “mentions,” if not news headlines, is the “puff” of radioactive materials that was released, which included plutonium and americium. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. And, workers at WIPP were exposed.
WIPP was designed to contain waste underground inside the Permian salt dome beneath WIPP for 10,000 years. But some of the waste escaped this week, 10,000 years early. February’s puff constitutes a change in containment status worth noting.
When such inexplicable “puffs” of radioactivity enter the atmosphere (or ocean currents), it’s worth revisiting Timothy Morton‘s discussions of hyperobjects. It’s the accumulation and free-ranging movements of uncontainable hyperobjects that, alongside human actions, co-create our contemporary moment.
“There is no away to which we can meaningfully sweep the radioactive dust. Nowhere is far enough or long-lasting enough. What must happen instead is that we must care consciously for nuclear materials …the future of plutonium exerts a causal influence on the present, casting its shadow backward through time. All kinds of options are no longer thinkable without a deliberate concealment of the reality of radioactive objects.” – Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World
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