Natural Forces: Nuclear

On May 10, 2012 · 9 Comments

My series on Natural Forces seems to be a dud based on the (lack of) comments which are usually rather robust in terms of both quantity and quality on the Twelve Mile Circle. It goes to show that I have no idea which articles will resonate with an audience, which probably also explains why 12MC readership is rather modest compared to lots of other sites.

The bad news is that I kind-of like the topic so I’m going to complete it. The good news is that the final two natural forces need to be combined into one due to lack of content so this will be the final article in the series. We’ll get back to a new bunch of geo-oddities in a couple of days.

Those final forces of nature are strong nuclear forces and weak nuclear forces. It’s pronounced nuclear not nucular. It’s like someone grating on a blackboard whenever I hear it pronounced "nucular," with apologies to actually, more than one former President of the United States. Sorry about that pet peeve mini-rant.

I can’t possibly begin to describe the difference between the two forces (except that one is "strong" and the other "weak") much less find any distinct towns named accordingly. I blame it on my liberal arts education. Actually, I couldn’t find a single populated place named Nuclear or some variation thereof in any of the official place names databases of the largest English-speaking nations. There’s always radioactivity of course but we’ve already covered that one rather extensively. I did find the names of a whole series of nuclear power plants of course, but I felt that was probably cheating and defeated the entire premise of the exercise.

No, I did not find a town but I did find a curious lake outside of Poughkeepsie, New York.

View Larger Map

Nuclear Lake? That’s seemed like an odd name and I figured there had to be an interesting backstory. I also noticed a dotted-line on the map running along the western shore of Nuclear Lake. I switched it from terrain mode to map mode, zoomed in and discovered that this was the famous Appalachian Trail. Thus, anyone collecting counties along the trail or otherwise hiking the AT from one end to another (like Steve from CTMQ has done) would have to strolled directly along the shores of Nuclear Lake.

View Larger Map

Here’s the scary part, and I think the title of a 1986 article in the Los Angeles Times says it all: New York Trail Includes Site of Plutonium Spill…

Hikers who stray from a new stretch of the Appalachian Trail may emerge from the oaks and laurel to find a shining lake echoing with the honks of Canada geese. To get there, however, they would have to surmount a rocky spine of land that hides the lake from the trail and pass signs posted every 50 feet bearing an ominous warning: “Property of U.S. Government. No Entry Beyond This Point. Potential Radioactive Danger.” United Nuclear operated the complex, a private research facility licensed by the government to experiment with bomb-grade uranium and plutonium, from 1958 to 1973. In 1972, the surrounding woods were contaminated when a chemical explosion scattered radioactive plutonium dust, considered by scientists to be the most toxic form of plutonium because of the threat of lung cancer if inhaled. The plant was closed, the plutonium was cleaned up, truckloads of contaminated soil were carried away.

Nuclear Lake does indeed have a nuclear connection. It may or may not have been contaminated at one time and it may or may not have been completely cleaned-up. It’s still somewhat controversial and a cause for concern for many people.

It looks like I won’t be hiking the Appalachian Trail anytime soon. Yes, that’s the reason… plutonium spill. It may have contaminated all 2,181 miles. Right. I’ll just keep telling myself that.

On May 10, 2012 · 9 Comments

9 Responses to “Natural Forces: Nuclear”

  1. Peter says:

    I’ve read all of these Natural Forces posts, but I haven’t commented. Not because the posts aren’t interesting, they certainly are, but there’s not much to add via comments.

  2. Don’t be hard on yourself. I thought this was a great series. Sometimes articles speaks for themselves and there’s nothing left to be said.

  3. Bill Harris says:

    Not nuclear, but there is Atomic Road near Aiken, South Carolina:

    Not a really surprising name, as the road passes through the former Savannah River nuclear reservation.

  4. Karl Z says:

    There might not be a “Nuclear”, but there is an Atomic City, Idaho, near the national laboratory where a lot of nuclear research was and is done. Atomic, Nuclear, close enough, right?

  5. Steve_CTMQ says:

    Although I did indeed hike past that lake and I do live in CT, I’m not this guy. (how timely!)

  6. Peter says:

    otherwise hiking the AT from one end to another (like Steve from CTMQ has done)

    Dunno about that one. I read Steve’s site on a regular basis and haven’t seen any reference to an end-to-end hike. It’s such a big undertaking that anyone who has done it is not going to keep quiet about the accomplishment!

  7. Peter says:

    Next nice weekend I’m going fishing in Nuclear Lake. I’ve always wanted to catch a 75-pound, ten-eyed trout.

  8. Ken says:

    There is Nucla, Colorado. It is in the heart of the Uranium mining Western Slope of Colorado. However, as Wikipedia puts it, “Its name comes from the town’s founders intent that it serve as a “nucleus” for the surrounding farms and mines, although it has since come to be associated with the growth of uranium mining in the region.”

Comments are closed.

12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
October 2017
« Sep