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Researchers Race To Recover Radioactive Rabbits 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the night-of-the-lepus dept.
Ponca City writes "The Tri-City Herald reports that radioactive rabbit droppings were recently found near the old Hanford Nuclear Site in southeast Washington that produced nuclear materials for 40 years and is now being decontaminated. The Department of Health looks for contamination off-site to make sure there is no public hazard and a rabbit trapped at the 300 Area caught their attention because it was close enough to the site's boundaries to potentially come in contact with the public. Joe Franco, an assistant manager for the Department of Energy, said workers erected fences, removed potential food sources and even sprayed the scent of a predator around the perimeter to prevent any other rabbit contamination and the Department of Energy said only one of 18 rabbits surveyed were deemed contaminated. Researchers narrowed the area of possible contamination to the 327 Building used during the Cold War for testing highly radioactive materials, particularly fuel elements and cladding that were irradiated at Hanford reactors as part of plutonium production for the nation's nuclear weapons program. Because the number of contaminated droppings being discovered on-site has decreased, officials now believe it's possible that just one rabbit might have been contaminated and they now are finding old droppings from it."

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Researchers Race To Recover Radioactive Rabbits

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  • I for one (Score:4, Funny)

    by cstacy (534252) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:27AM (#34153762)
    I for one, welcome our glowing Leporidae overlords.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "I for one, welcome our glowing Leporidae overlords."

      They will be a tough act to follow. How do I get luminous paint to stick to a fursuit?

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      These kinds of things defeat the "nuclear option" apologists. Their arguments are all based in the premise that waste will be correctly transported and stored. I don't think so. And the consequences of a spill, even of a tiny amount, are far more dangerous than any other material we use for energy production.
  • Rabbitman, Rabbitman! Does whatever a rabbit can!...
    • by JDeane (1402533)

      I really am concerned about what powers rabbit man may have.... The only two I can think of are the ability to hop and [censored]....

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        What's with all the carrots?
        What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:31AM (#34153788) Homepage

    I'm hunting wabbits!

    Look, wabbit twacks ...

  • by He who knows (1376995) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:39AM (#34153820)
    This can mean only one thing. The rabbits are now super inteligent and hiding their droppings.
    • The radioactivity has given them super powers with laser beam eyes - they're using they're laser beams to disintegrate their turds.
  • Suppose they were fucking like bunnies and their growth follows the fibonacci sequence. Then what? Radioactive bunnies bunnies taking over the world?

  • by howlingfrog (211151) <ajmkenyon2002@ya h o o . c om> on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:39AM (#34153826) Homepage Journal
    Slow and steady wins the race.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Do I take the easy way out and go with "Duck! Wabbit! Duck!" Well, I could, but...

      Slow and steady wins the race.

      ...so "Duck and Cover!" it is :)

    • So it's not the rabbits we need fear, but radioactive turtles?
  • Easy... (Score:2, Funny)

    by PmanAce (1679902)
    Just look for the 3 eyed green ones.
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:43AM (#34153836) Homepage

    Say it 5 times quickly. Go on, I dare you!

  • Science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:43AM (#34153838)

    Despite the common belief and what bad scifi would tell you, rabbits (and other things) don't become radioactive when exposed to radiation.

    In this case, the rabbit likely consumed radioactive materials, meaning that it is contaminated with radioactive materials. The rabbit itself though, is not radioactive.

    The radioactivity is not contagious and the fear is not that someone will pet the radioactive rabbit and become radioactive themself. The problem would be if a hunter caught the rabbit and ate it. Then he/she would ingest both the rabbit and the radioactive materials, putting him/her at higher risk for certain diseases (most notably cancer). However, he/she would not be radioactive either.

    • Re:Science (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:45AM (#34153850)

      Just to elaborate, if this rabbit mates, it's children will not be radioactive nor will they receive radioactive materials. The problem is only with this generation.

      • by Eevee (535658)
        Unless the rabbit passes on the desire to nibble on radioactive waste material. We'll end up with roving bands of rabbits invading nuclear power plants across the world just to have a quick snack.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          We could use them to counter nuclear proliferation.

      • Biology (Score:2, Insightful)

        by feedayeen (1322473)

        Just to elaborate, if this rabbit mates, it's children will not be radioactive nor will they receive radioactive materials. The problem is only with this generation.

        That would only be true if it were a male since I doubt a significant amount of material will be carried into the female in the seaman. If the rabbit is female, the radioactive materials will be in the mother's body while the fetus is developing. At this point the question becomes whether the materials are capable of being digested and incorporated into the mother's system, assuming this is true, the materials could very well be teratogens and thus incorporated into the next generation. This really isn't

        • If the contaminated material is a building block of organic life (e.g. amino acids) then what you proposed is correct. However, the use of the word 'teratogen' is incorrect. Teratogen means (in the strict sense of the word) a material that can cause birth defects, the best known example is Thalidomide [wikipedia.org]. A teratogen is not a material that is being "incorporated into the next generation"
          A compound can be teratogenic without being radioactive. On the flip side, a radioactive material can be of low enough intens

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Charliemopps (1157495)
        Unless of course, the rabbit used the materials to build it's nest, and it's children do the same. The problem here is that they've left these materials, that are easily identifiable, laying around for the wildlife to consume.
    • Re:Science (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RsG (809189) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:10AM (#34153968)

      The problem would be if a hunter caught the rabbit and ate it. Then he/she would ingest both the rabbit and the radioactive materials, putting him/her at higher risk for certain diseases (most notably cancer). However, he/she would not be radioactive either.

      I agree with your post, but wanted to add something.

      Aside from the scenario you set up in the passage I quoted, there are a couple of other ways a contaminated rabbit could cause problems. To wit, the animal could die to some cause other than a human hunter and spread the contamination through other parts of the food chain, via scavengers and decomposition . Or the rabbit could get adopted or otherwise come into contact with human beings and cause health problems via contaminated droppings. Or, if the animal remained wild, its contaminated droppings could find their way into agricultural soil (this last one is a long shot).

      The good news is, the total quantity of radioactive material is finite, and will become more diluted over time. And rabbits are not especially radiation resistant, meaning if the quantity of contaminants per rabbit is probably fairly low already (or else they'd have died at or near the site they were contaminated at).

      Plus, any really nasty isotopes they've absorbed will also have a shorter half-life. So this isn't a long term problem, provided that whatever circumstances resulted in the rabbits getting contaminated in the first place have been rectified.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by careysub (976506)

        So this isn't a long term problem, provided that whatever circumstances resulted in the rabbits getting contaminated in the first place have been rectified.

        The rabbits are contaminated with Cs-137 and Sr-90, both of which have ~30 year half-life. So their droppings are going to remain "hot" for a long, long time. Long-lived contamination being move off of the reservation is definitely a long term problem, as long is it exceed safety limits.

    • Then he/she would ingest both the rabbit and the radioactive materials, putting him/her at higher risk for certain diseases (most notably cancer). However, he/she would not be radioactive either.

      That really depends on the contaminant and the dose. Radioactive poop indicates the rabbit was ingesting something contaminated, but without knowing what it is and the dose it's almost impossible to conclude someone eating the rabbit would be exposing themselves to any health risk at all.

    • by DingerX (847589)
      Huh? A rabbit is nothing more than it component material and perhaps an organizing principle. If that material is radioactive, the rabbit is radioactive. Taking 'radioactive' to mean "significantly above background levels", then that's one hot bunny.

      By the way, did Oak Ridge ever solve their hot toad problem?
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Deer/elk hunting is a more popular sport in the eastern Washington area (including the TriCities; I'm a former resident) than rabbit hunting. I'd be more worried about somebody eating a mule deer that had been eating contaminated material.

      The TriCities have been living with the Hanford site now for over fifty years. You can't walk down the street there without tripping over three engineers along the way. I don't know anyplace else I've lived where they routinely check the rabbit sh*t, so I'd have to say the

    • The big question is - were the rabbits exposed to radiation directly or were they bitten by radio active spiders? Spiderbunnies would probably spawn spiderbunnies... and much faster than regular bunnies!
    • In this case, the rabbit likely consumed radioactive materials, meaning that it is contaminated with radioactive materials. The rabbit itself though, is not radioactive.

      That seems overly pedantic. By that definition, you could also say that the fuel elements and cladding are not radioactive either...they're just contaminated with radioactive materials.

      The rabbit is likely emitting beta and gamma radiation (at least more than a usual rabbit does). Therefore, by definition, it's radioactive.

    • The rabbit itself though, is not radioactive.

      So does that mean that my plans for generating electricity with a cold radioactive rabbit fusion reactor won't work?

      I'll write it up anyway, maybe it will be good enough for an Ig Nobel.

    • by mark_osmd (812581)
      >rabbits (and other things) don't become radioactive when exposed to radiation That's not 100% true, neutron radiation will make inert material radioactive. Inert containment vessels become radioactive after the neutron radiation for a few months and years modifies the steel in the vessel. That occurs without any transport of actual radioactive material into the steel.
    • by fizzup (788545)

      Despite the common belief and what bad scifi would tell you, rabbits (and other things) don't become radioactive when exposed to radiation.

      In this case, the rabbit likely consumed radioactive materials, meaning that it is contaminated with radioactive materials. The rabbit itself, though, is not radioactive.

      This is true, but it's only a kind of half truth. If the rabbit has consumed some strontium-90 then the skeleton of the rabbit will incorporate some of it. Strontium and calcium are both in family 2 on the periodic table and only one period apart, which means that they are chemically similar. Sr-90 is a pretty common component of waste from old uranium and plutonium fission because it's about half the size of U-235 and Pu-239 and it has a relatively long half life (~30 years). According to wikipedia around [wikipedia.org]

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      Don't listen to this joker, people. The rabbit itself MUST be radioactive...why else would it be glowing green in that highly reliable picture up top that isn't at all reminiscent of the Weekly World News?

  • by zounds011 (1935706) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:45AM (#34153852)
    the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch!
  • But I'm not jumping to any wild conclusions. Probably just a wild hare.

  • Nuclear Paranoia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Martin Spamer (244245) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:53AM (#34153898) Homepage Journal

    Cesium is more dangerous as a toxic heavy metal than as a radioactive source and the level of Cessium was insufficient to kill the rabbit via toxicity, because it's still only as toxic as common salt. When Cesium decays it emits Beta radiation which doesn't penetrate heavy clothing and barely penetrates the skin. The level of Radioactivity was insufficient to kill the rabbit but they still go to all that trouble to track it down. All the hallmarks of Nuclear Paranoia.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by headhot (137860)

      While beta radiation out side the skin is not that bad, a beta or even alpha source inside the body is very very bad. This is how Alexander Litvinenko was killed. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polonium [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In addition, radioactive materials are less dangerous to animals for a simple reason- the don't live as long as us so they are less likely to develop and die from cancer caused by radioactivity. Also, they are usually able to breed within a couple of years, so they can still reproduce even if they are severely irradiated and do eventually die of cancer. Humans take ~20 years to reach normal childbearing age, plenty of time to die from cancer.

      However, its also about length of exposure. If you handled an

    • Stop slandering my good name!
    • by Lanteran (1883836)
      actually if I recall correctly, beta radiation is fairly dangerous and penetrates the skin quite well; its alpha that can't do much of anything outside the body.
    • by careysub (976506) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @02:03PM (#34155484)

      Cesium is more dangerous as a toxic heavy metal than as a radioactive source and the level of Cessium was insufficient to kill the rabbit via toxicity, because it's still only as toxic as common salt. When Cesium decays it emits Beta radiation which doesn't penetrate heavy clothing and barely penetrates the skin. The level of Radioactivity was insufficient to kill the rabbit but they still go to all that trouble to track it down. All the hallmarks of Nuclear Paranoia.

      Any sample of Cesium-137 also emits strong gamma rays - 662 keV - due to its decay product Ba-137m with a half life of 2.55 minutes. So yes, handling anything containing Cs-137 is irradiating your internal organs at the same time. It has been used for radiography in medicine for decades. Check out the Goiania Brazil disaster where hundreds were significantly exposed to an old Cs-137 source (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goi%C3%A2nia_accident). I have no idea where you are getting this "cesium is more dangerous as a toxic heavy metal" nonsense.

      The problem is that the rabbits on the reservation are distributing lumps of long-lived radiation (Cs-137 and Sr-90 are both commonly found) that considerably exceed safety standards (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/15/science/earth/15rabbit.html ). This means they have a legal responsibility to control this exposure. Note also that low-level exposure to radiation causes a cumulative increase in cancer risk, so the fact that no one will show symptoms from handling radioactive rabbit poop does not mean it is "safe".

    • by izomiac (815208)
      While I'm sure hypothetical danger exists, IMHO this needs to be put into perspective. A rabbit is carrying around a bit of radioactive material, though not enough to cause it too many problems obviously. Its droppings contain a tiny fraction of that, yet our equipment is sensitive enough to detect it, and our standards classify it as dangerous. Remember that humans are slightly larger than rabbits, so a rabbit is going to suffer a lot more than we would from the same amount of radioactive material.

      Gi
      • by careysub (976506)

        ... Remember that humans are slightly larger than rabbits, so a rabbit is going to suffer a lot more than we would from the same amount of radioactive material....

        On the other hand they only live a few years in the wild - so the long-term effects of exposure aren't going to show up. And when dealing with people, a 0.1% chance of cancer due to exposure is considered an enormous hazard, while you would need perhaps 25,000 rabbits to have a large enough population (considering longevity) to show one additional case at that same exposure level.

        • by izomiac (815208)
          Smaller animals also tend to have higher cell division rates, so they still show signs of cancer sooner. A lab mouse that dies of "old age" might be full of tumors at age four, whereas tumors in four year old humans are quite rare. But you are right in that cutting this rabbit's lifespan in half might not be readily apparent at this point.

          Also, a .1% increased risk of cancer in the three people who run into this particular rabbit still only has a .3% chance of having any effect at all. Significant, bu
  • by dclozier (1002772) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:55AM (#34153902)
    That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!
  • by cheetah_spottycat (106624) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:02AM (#34153932)

    "The Plague Dogs" is the third novel by Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, about two dogs who escape an animal testing facility and are subsequently pursued by both the government and the media.

    There is also an 1982 animated film based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Richard Adams. The film was written-for-screen, directed and produced by Martin Rosen, who also directed Watership Down

    Rowf (a Labrador-mix) and Snitter (a smooth fox terrier) are two of many dogs used for experimental purposes at an animal research facility in the Lake District of north-western England. They manage to escape, but initially relieved and eager to experience their new freedom, the dogs are soon faced not only with the realities of life in the wild but with another more terrifying realization--they are being hunted by their former captors. As they wander about aimlessly, the army and the media are roped into the pursuit, driven by rumors of the pair carrying bubonic plague and murdering sheep and even humans.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, when dogs are thinking and reasoning like that, they probably were part of some genetic experiment to increase brain capacity and intelligence. You see most dogs follow fairly simple sensory input / response programs like so

      Sensory Input / Response

      See ass (yours or others ) / Sniff it!!
      See leg / Hump it!
      See food / Eat it!
      See balls / Lick it!
      Hear noise / Bark at it!

      • by RogL (608926)

        Well, when dogs are thinking and reasoning like that, they probably were part of some genetic experiment to increase brain capacity and intelligence. You see most dogs follow fairly simple sensory input / response programs like so

        Sensory Input / Response

        See ass (yours or others ) / Sniff it!!
        See leg / Hump it!
        See food / Eat it!
        See balls / Lick it!
        Hear noise / Bark at it!

        My neighbor's dog must be advanced, he has a default level of response:

        Sensory Input / Response

        Nothing is Happening / Bark continuously!

        • by Johnno74 (252399)

          I suggest you chuck a large block of chocolate over the fence as a special treat for it. I hear dogs really love that stuff.

  • Which is not only an older story but totally owns your feeble bunny piece in the alliteration league: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7040256.ece

  • by baegucb (18706) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:11AM (#34153976)

    Ron Judd asked a good question: News stories about the Hanford creature said "Washington state Health Department workers with the Office of Radiation Protection have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings." Exactly how short of a straw does one have to draw to get that assignment?

    • Be Vewwy Vewwy Quiet, I'm hunting Wadioactive Wabbits! - E. Fudd, WA Office of Radiation Protection.
  • Oak Ridge Duck Poo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by supercrisp (936036) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:32AM (#34154086)
    I live near Oak Ridge, and they had a problem about two years ago with radioactive duck droppings. The facilities from WW2 are sometimes poorly documented. So there were some unknown of pipes running under a small pond. Radioactive stuff leaked, plants grew from that soil, ducks ate it, and then waddled around the area doing what ducks do(o). It was moderately expensive to clean up. Though I think worth the cost in (grim) chuckles. The clean-up of the whole facility up there has been going on for some time, and will likely continue. I'm not all surprised to read about radioactive rabbit poo at Hanford. Lucky it's not pigeons....
    • Yes, if it were pigeons, it would be deemed airborne radiation, meaning everyone in the area would have to get fitted with respirators, hoods, and full-body anti-contamination suits.

      Silly rabbit, radiation is for RADCON.

    • by fermion (181285)
      And 20 years ago it was frogs [latimes.com]
  • Those Fools! Boy are they going to be sorry, because it just keeps going and going and going!

  • This could mean a breakthrough!

    This single rabbit could actually be one of the ORIGINAL rabbits used for testing, who happened to have that singular genetic mutation which allows it to live on indefinitely (with the exception of accident and predation of course). Having captured the rabbit, they'll now be able to figure out what mutation occurred and suddenly immortality for humans is just around the corner.....bwahahahahaha

    Or maybe it just ate something. Whatever.

  • Tim: Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!
    Sir Galahad: Get stuffed!
    Tim: He'll do you up a treat, mate.
    Sir Galahad: Oh, yeah?
    Sir Robin: You manky Scots git!
    Tim: I'm warning you!
    Sir Robin: What's he do? Nibble your bum?
    Tim: He's got huge, sharp... er... He can leap about. Look at the bones!
    • by swb (14022)

      They'll probably call in an A-10 strike.

      • Let me guess, using depleted uranium rounds? couple of strikes and the depleted could become enriched?

        double hot dead rabbit, next up, hot scavengers.

  • what a shitty problem!
  • Wonder what mutations can occur given that the amount of radiation is small? Also, why wouldn't the rabbits children be toxic? Given its a female rabbit.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wonder what mutations can occur given that the amount of radiation is small? Also, why wouldn't the rabbits children be toxic? Given its a female rabbit.

      From the wabbit's perspective, much of the nasty stuff is pooped right back out again.

      The point - as everyone on this thread has seemed to miss - isn't that the wabbits are wadioactive. It's not that Elmer might finally catch one and increase his lifetime w(OK, I'll stop, honest!)risk of cancer by a miniscule percentage when he eats it.

      The point is t

  • The obvious solution is to release radioactive foxes to hunt them down.

  • LOL! NOW I know where the Energizer Bunny came from! As in the old Timex watch commercial - it (the Geiger counter) just keeps on tickin'... So, back when I was a student at the University of Colorado (1960's), my buddies and I would motor down the road to the Coors plant in Golden around the end of the month when we were out of beer money, take the tour, and then suck up the free suds (no such thing as a designated driver in those days), staggering back to Boulder a few hours later. On the way we would pa
  • ... because I've always preferred my meat hot rather than lukewarm.

  • From Fred Small's album Everything Possible: Hot Frogs on the Loose [frogsonice.com].

    OK, who wants to write the bunny version?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That Hugh Hefner has joined the search team. No one can track down hot bunnies like Hef.

  • by ecbpro (919207)
    Take a radioactive rabbit and let it do its droppings somewhere...
    I am sure if some terrorist had released such rabbits in some western city some poor country would be bombarded right now.
  • What is the half-life of radioactive rabbit dropping?

  • Now that's some hot shit!!

  • Thats one hot rabbit, no, really, its hot.

    And while we're on the topic of hot rabbit, do you suppose rabbit finished on plutonium taste less gamey?

  • So, what was found was some, "Hot Shit?"
  • Radioactive Rocker Rabbits....

    --

    Ordinary rabbits mutated by a nuclear waste into Radioactive Rocker Rabbits. Becoming one of the world's most popular rock bands, and super heroes.

    Perfect for the 80's...eh?

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