My Happy Place: Soviet Nuclear Lighthouse Dead Zones.

When I woke up this morning, among the first things I saw was Warren Ellis's missive on Soviet Nuclear Lighthouse Dead Zones. It is a beautiful thing. Today it is my happy place. Allow me to explain.
The great northern coast of Russia is inside the Arctic Circle, and the shoreline is hundreds of miles from civilisation almost the whole way along. Lighthouses were required for the coast, because it's a handy passage but it spends a hundred days of the year in near-permanent night. The problems were that they'd be miles from anywhere, and couldn't realistically be supplied or crewed.

So the Russians erected autonomous nuclear-powered lighthouses. Which worked great, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, they probably would have been fine after that, if people hadn't looted them for copper and anything else that looked like it wasn't nailed down too hard. Including, apparently, reactor shielding. So many of these great polar nuclear lighthouses are now radioactive deadzones.

This concept brought me so much joy, for an hour after reading this, I was in a multi-hour meeting with my lawyer and my lobbyist, and every time someone said something... horrible... I went to my happy place: Soviet Nuclear Lighthouse Dead Zones. For example: "You're completely fucked!", they might say. "Mmmmm... Soviet Nuclear Lighthouse Dead Zones," I might think. "That's so wonderfully grim-meathooky! Wow! Oh wait, what were you saying?"

It got me through the day. Thanks, Warren.

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42 Responses:

  1. laptop006 says:

    You have a lobbyist? Just against the city, Sacremento or all the way to DC?

  2. quercus says:

    It gets even better at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator
    and, "some of these lighthouses cannot be found because of poor record keeping"

    In my big list of All the Things It's Really Difficult to Lose, pretty near the top is "Giant concrete nuclear thing with a light on top".

  3. fantasygoat says:

    How are you completely fucked now?

  4. Well, if you want real results, I'd make The Internet Jesus your lawyer and lobbyist.

  5. jsbowden says:

    As cool as Soviet Nuclear Lighthouse Dead Zones is, why are you completely fucked?

  6. elainegrey says:

    More details (2005) of extensive use of Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTG)s and their unsecured distribution throughout the former Soviet Union.

    http://www.bellona.org/english_import_area/international/russia/navy/northern_fleet/incidents/37598

    • gryazi says:

      Good to see that link already dropped here; I could swear I might've snuck this into a comment on some post about a year ago when I found it, but my apologies if I didn't.

      Of course, it'd be even cooler if they'd been adequately secured and continued operating versus becoming permanent hazmat sites due to scrap collectors, but so it goes. The need for regular maintenance to change bulbs sort of screws that dream anyway; it would've taken solid-state lighting to even hope they'd last for 50 years.

      • Or, say, those cool microwave-excited-sulfur-ball lights? I think they have a pretty long mttf.

        • gryazi says:

          Good point. I can't remember how long it takes for the sulfur ball to ablate, if ever. Now there are these things (by Luxim) which are also promising when painfully high output is needed -- not entirely unlike the sulfur design but much more tuned.

          Speaking of "painfully bright," here's something I was going to link but can't relocate: There was an interesting story about a modern lighthouse (in Japan, IIRC) which needed to be 'turned down' because it so bright that it was causing more trouble than it was solving. Wish I'd bookmarked that.

  7. Dude, this is my new imagery for my guided meditations. WIN!

  8. perligata says:

    See, I told you Russians were awesome.

  9. schwa242 says:

    Neat. Free nuclear material for the taking. Why, the uses are limitless. I wonder if any nations would find it worth the trip, or worth hiring looters to grab.

  10. I can see it now... the great Soviet lighthouse hunters... trudging across the tundra... looking for abandoned hellholes.

    On the other hand, I think Warren just might be looking for a new evil lair to blog from. Stock it with Red Bull, Silk Cuts and let him sit there soaking up radiation till he glows like manic firefly... and then he'll be ready to unleash himself on the world!

  11. mcity says:

    But what is their zombie-defense potential?

  12. rodgerd says:

    ...when I hear people amping up nuclear generation as a solved problem, waste and all, I tend to think, "eh, not so much."

  13. spoonyfork says:

    The need for recursive warnings for the warnings is delightfully ironic which leads us into the deliciously difficult task of warning future generations of your (their) problems when they have no concept of your language and culture. These future generational problems get so little of the attention they deserve.

    http://dir.salon.com/story/people/feature/2002/05/10/yucca_mountain/

    William McDonough tells an interesting story of how the Navajo told a Yucca Mountain DOE engineer, (paraphrasing) "don't worry about marking it, we'll tell everyone where your poison is."

  14. jered says:

    Unrelated: Are you aware that you are a Notable Nerd on LJ according to LiveJournal Inc.?

  15. violentbloom says:

    Damn you should have bought a lighthouse instead of a nightclub!

  16. sheilagh says:

    nothing to worry about.... really...