Numerate journalist of the day

The Plutonium Finishing Plant at Hanford is one of the most dangerous workplaces in the world. From 1944 to 1989 it produced 74,000 tons of weapons-grade plutonium-239.


No, really, just no
.

I might, just, believe 740 tonnes, given that a reasonable estimate of extant plutonium is in the 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes range. But I think that it\’s more likely to be 74,000 kilograms.

6 comments on “Numerate journalist of the day

  1. That’s enough plutonium to make 12 million Fat Man bombs like the one that hit Nagasaki (6.2 kg of plutonium each). Surely even CND doesn’t think there were that many nukes.

  2. If you want the actual figure for beating about the head of innumerate journalists, it’s here:

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/pu50yc.html

    The total DOE plutonium acquisitions for the period 1944 to September 30, 1994, were 111.4 metric tons. Of the 111.4 MT plutonium acquired, 104 MT were produced in Government reactors; 103.4 MT in production reactors, and 0.6 MT in nonproduction reactors. In addition, 1.7 MT were acquired from U.S. civilian industry, and 5.7 MT from foreign countries.

    The Hanford reactors produced 67.4 metric tons of plutonium including 54.5 MT of weapon grade plutonium through 1987 before the last Hanford production reactor was shutdown.

  3. I wondered that. For people who tout themselves as scientists, allowing such an egregious misuse of notation into anything with their imprimatur is very naughty indeed. “Metric” tons is a stupid American affectation that survives only because of their weird attachment to pre-scientific units. Anyway, that much Pu239 is 1.7 10^20 Bq or 4.6 billion Curies. Anyone with any sense of scale when it comes to radioactivity would see that as idiotic right off the bat.

  4. While deploring the inaccurate use of the M prefix, the innumerate journalist is still wrong by three orders of magnitude plus change from rather more than a shilling.

    Were II their defence barrister I might add that possibly said journalist realised that 111,400,000 tons was implausible, so corrected it, by three orders of magnitude and change from rather more than a shilling. Objection? At least they got the direction of correction right your honour.

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