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Back to the old salt mine

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Syncing with "Stranger Things," workers at the radiation-contaminated WIPP site in New Mexico must wear protective gear and respirators.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – One of the most-read stories ever posted here at Red Dirt Report was back in February 2014 and headlined “Serious ‘radiation incident’ at NM waste facility has public concerned.”

Our story, about a “serious radiological event” at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico generated a lot of interest at the time and was picked up by multiple websites and a few TV stations. While I initially wrote about it, our Tulsa-based reporter at the time, Mariah Harnish, followed up with some dynamite stories of her own on this unsettling accident, at the hands of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The story was played down at the time, for the most part. The underground storage area at WIPP is in “ancient salt beds” where nuclear waste from weapons going back to the World War II era are stored. But one of the drums of radioactive waste – specifically plutonium and americium waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory, also in New Mexico - exploded and somehow the radiation escaped and was detected by sensors many miles away, with the radiological particles drifting eastward on the desert winds.

I was reminded of that story today when I stumbled across an article on the Los Angeles Times website headlined “Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history.

Yes, the accident cost nearly $2 billion in cleanup. The Times notes that that amount is “roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.”

More than two years later, parts of the WIPP storage site remain contaminated and may stay contaminated, meaning it will have to operate “dirty,” as the story notes.

“For now, workers entering contaminated areas must wear protective gear, including respirators,” a DOE spokesman told the Times. That reminded me of the scientists in Stranger Things as they look for the "monster." Like in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

And anti-nuke activists are pointing fingers at the Department of Energy as a big part of the problem, for not doing more.

“There is no question the Energy Department has downplayed the significant of the accident,” Dan Hancock with the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque told the Times.

What is interesting is that I came across this story while listening to a multi-disc collection of music by New Age pioneers Tangerine Dream, highlighting their “timelessly futuristic” years on Virgin Records between 1977 and 1983.

In fact, I chuckled to myself because in the phenomenal, new Netflix series Stranger Things, set in 1983, the synthesizer music used in the series is period-perfect and crafted by Austin, Texas-based band S U R V I V E. And yes, their sound has been compared to Tangerine Dream. In fact, that is why I popped in the disc, because I wanted to be reminded of the synth-tastic sounds of Tangerine Dream. And then there is my DDD piece on Stranger Things, "Supernatural, perhaps." 

Telekinetic "Eleven" on Stranger Things. (Netflix)

What was a little eerie is that I had reached the track “Pilots of Purple Twilight,” (note the Waste Pilot Isolation Plant, operated by the DOE) which is a track from their 1981 album Exit, which is probably the German group’s most beloved album and one that syncs with Stranger Things, since the title track, “Exit,” plays at the end of episode six (and the track that happens to be playing right now, as I post this – for more on Tangerine Dream’s return to public consciousness, read this).

It is odd, noting the other tracks include “Network 23” (very syncy) and “Remote Viewing,” a song title that most definitely syncs with Stranger Things, since Hawkins National Laboratory, where the “evil” experiments are being conducted in the small Indiana town, is also conducted by the Department of Energy (although the DOE has officially blogged that they do nothing of the sort, Hawkins doesn't exist and all of their scientists are "good" and "smart" – move along, nothing to see here …)

Remember the George Clooney film a few years back called The Men Who Stare At Goats? That was all about “remote viewing” and psychic spying, just as noted in Stranger Things.

And speaking of “dreams” (this is Dust Devil Dreams, after all), what brought this post full circle for me was a very vivid dream I had a few nights ago involving a salt mine, of all things. I was in a salt mine, although it seemed to be lit as if it was on the surface, rather than in a cave, like those utilzed by the DOE to store their waste of evil. Sure ... they don't do anything monstrous, as opposed to the fiction of Stranger Things. But that salt angle caught my attention, as it has been coming up a lot lately and I sensed I would be referencing this dream soon. And as it happens, well, here I am. And when someone says "back to the old salt mine," it means back to hard work. A lot of work yet to do, it would seem.

I sensed a Star Wars connection in relation to this salt mine dream. I researched it a bit and found that in Transylvania - yes, that Transylvania, in Romania, one of the largest salt mine museums - Salina Turda - exists and draws tourists from around the world. In the post about the site, it notes that fans of Star Wars, Star Trek and "sci-fi entertainment" will have their minds blown by this salt mine.

Salt, of course, is sodium chloride (NaCl) and it is essential for human life. It is also mentioned numerous times in the Bible and is used in some Catholic rites as a way of blessing a dwelling. That said, this "salt mine" dream had a bluish-gray tint about and struck me as a bit post-apocalyptic, or perhaps otherworldly. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the sync significance of salt. 

Oh, and before closing here, I should note that the Dust Devil Dream I had and wrote about on the day of the WIPP radiological "event" was titled "Oh mi corazon" and involved my writing about Arthur Koestler (whose The Ghost in the Machine I reviewed last week), The Clash's "Spanish Bombs" (recall the significance of The Clash in Stranger Things) and the number 23. What is most intriguing is that to this day, that post has had a total of 23 shares. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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