Saturday, July 11, 2009

Absolut Radioactivity

Brad Plumer describes an interesting plan for accelerating the decontamination of the part of southeastern Belarus around Chernobyl: Plant a whole bunch of sugar beets, have them soak up radioactivity from the soil, use the beets to make ethanol, and dispose of the discarded radioactive beet matter safely. Assuming that distillation works like it's supposed to, the radioactive materials won't end up in the ethanol. And since plants apparently soak radioactivity out of the soil, "clean-up could take just decades instead of centuries." There are some drawbacks, like finding somewhere to dispose of the radioactive beet crud, but an Irish company is proposing to actually do this.

If this stuff is really safe, they should set their sights higher than biofuels. Selling liquor from radioactive sugar beets to edgy consumers would really be the way to go. Put a big radioactivity symbol on the bottle, tell your story, and crazy dudes in their early 20s will drink it up and boast about it to their buddies. I was thinking at first that it'd have to be a kind of rum, since that's what sugar-derived liquors usually are, but apparently there are sugar beet vodkas out there, and vodka would definitely fit US consumers' expectations of the region.
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