Monday, August 03, 2009
So, Princeton University found an old filing cabinet filled with lab notebooks from the Manhattan Project...
University Archivist Dan Linke readily agreed to house the file cabinet, and the day after doing so, he received a call from Sue Dupre, also in Environmental Health and Safety and the Radiation Safety Officer for the University. She reported that while the filing cabinet itself is uncontaminated, some of the lab notebooks within the cabinet were radioactive! The notebooks had apparently become contaminated with uranium in the 1940s while the notebooks were being used during experiments. However, the amount of radiation emitted by the uranium on the notebooks was at a level that did not penetrate the filing cabinet—and only the bottom two drawers contained material that was “hot.” When Linke asked her how hot, she said that of the four scales on a Geiger counter, they were at the “high end of the lowest scale,” but reassured him that there is no measurable reading from the outside of the cabinet and that one is subject to far more radiation from jet travel or other natural environmental circumstances. Although the uranium appeared to be fixed to the paper of the notebooks and would not readily transfer to the skin of people handling the notebooks, Dupre recommended that the notebooks be handled with latex gloves as a precaution.... Said Linke, “During my 20+ year archival career I have had to worry about wet documents, moldy paper, insect and vermin residue, and other unpleasant things, but this is the first time I have had to deal with radiation.”
Yes, this is our first and quite possibly last link to the "Mudd Manuscript Library Blog."
I well remember a demonstration of holding a 1/2 bolt in the magnetic field of the cyclotron in the basement of the Palmer Phsyical Laboratory (now the Frist Student Center), and having to limit our time in the cyclotron to 5 minutes due to Manhattan Project radiation, even in the spring of '74. Of course, my roommate in Campbell Hall, had Eugene Wigner,a Nobelist and Manhattan Project veteran, as freshman advisor (and quite a Hungarian gentleman). Lots of Manhattan sites in NJ, including my hometown of Dunellen.
Not so hot but along similar lines - The USDOD/archives nearly lost all the after action reports for the war in Vietnam. A think tank had finished its research and called up the archives - either they took them that afternoon or the reports were off the rubbish dump.