The technical challenges of storing or dealing with radioactive waste are daunting, partly because radioactive waste can remain toxic for such vast lengths of time--from 10,000 to millions of years. The most problematic elements are neptunium-237, with a half-life of 2 million years, and plutonium-239 , with a half-life of 24,000 years. It will be 240,000-plus years before the plutonium we made in the 1940s will approach the end of its radioactive life. Radioactive waste must be stored and managed in a stable place--safe from earthquakes, water, or other weather elements--and be under the constant watchful eye of stable human institutions or governments. Government agencies struggle with how to communicate to future generations how lethal these storage sites are. Signs in English will likely be inadequate, and perhaps are even today. Linguists are working to develop symbols or pictures that will warn of contamination and can last hundreds and thousands of years. (333)
In the geography of land and the geography of the body, some things are seen and some are unseen (338).
We don't talk about plutonium. It's bad for business. It reminds us of what we don't want to acknowledge about ourselves. We built nuclear bombs, and we poisoned ourselves in the process. Where does the fault lie? Atomic secrecy, the Cold War culture, bureaucratic indifference, corporate greed, a complacent citizenry, a failed democracy? What is a culture but a group of individuals acting on the basis of shared values?
In less than a generation we have forgotten what happened at Rocky Flats, and why it must never happen again. In a few years it will be completely forgotten, as if it never occurred at all. Will those who walk on the trails and pitch their tents to watch the stars know what the land can't forget? Years and decades will pass; governments and government agencies will change. People will build homes and businesses and roads and parks on land tainted by an invisible and invincible demon. And no one will know. (338-340)